Chatham-Kent Mayor Randy Hope has declared a state of emergency due to the imminent threat of flooding along the Thames River.

Hope is requesting an immediate voluntary evacuation of the community of Thamesville.

Hope says the latest information received from the Lower Thames Conservation Authority (LTVCA) indicates the Thames River will peak near Thamesville around midnight.

"We are recommending a volunteer evacuation and urging residents to prepare to leave as soon as possible," said Hope.

Lighthouse Cove in the eastern portion of Lakeshore on the Thames River is also at risk for potential flooding as high water levels flow through Chatham downstream to the mouth of the Thames at Lake St. Clair.

Sand and sand bags are available free  of charge at the Tremblay Beach Conservation area and also at the end of Haven Ave off Tisdelle Dr. Residents in the area are welcome to make sandbags to protect their property.

The LTCVA issued a flood warning at 8:20 p.m. Thursday and is in effect until Saturday.

The LTCVA has indicated there may be a half-meter of water throughout the community later Friday, but warned that number is subject to change.

"As much as we have scientific predictions, there are still variables," says Hope. "We need residents to leave sooner rather than later in case the situation deteriorates."

Mayor Hope said the John. D Bradley Centre is open as an emergency shelter for residents who aren't able to stay with friends or relatives in unaffected areas.  Residents who want to use the shelter should call 519-360-1998 for details.

"We are asking residents to take a 72 hour supply of medication and personal items with them since the water may remain high for several days,” says Hope.

Volunteer firefighters have been going door to door in the village to talk to residents.

Union Gas says it has turned the gas off at nearly 800 homes along the Thames River in Thamesville, Chatham and Lighthouse Cove.

Mayor Hope said the municipality has activated its emergency procedures and officials are working closely with police, fire and EMS sectors as well as the LTVCA.

The Thames crested in London Thursday morning and flood plains and low lying areas throughout Chatham-Kent are under water as the peak moves west. The river is expected to continue to rise throughout Chatham-Kent, reaching a peak in Chatham by mid-day Saturday.

Based on past flooding events, water levels at the center of the community can be expected to be between 0.3 m and 0.5 m deep. 

These depths of flooding would be somewhere between what was experienced in 2008/2009 and the 1977 flood.

Chatham-Kent Fire and Emergency Services Chief Bob Crawford said the slippery banks and fast flowing water poses a significant safety risk and urged people to stay a safe distance from the waterway.

“The current is very powerful and your odds of surviving if you fall in are slim,” he said. “It’s not worth the risk.”