State of emergency

A state of emergency and flood warnings remain in place in southwestern Ontario, though officials say damage from a local river appears to be less than expected.

Officials in Chatham-Kent, Ont., say the Thames River, swollen by days of heavy rains and melted snow, is reaching its peak in most areas covered by the state of emergency.

In a statement, they say water levels in the municipality of Thamesville, Ont., caused less street flooding than anticipated and peaked early this morning.

Officials with the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority say the peak is expected in Chatham, Ont., this evening between 7 and 9 p.m.

They say that while the rate at which the river is rising has slowed, low-lying homes are still at risk of flood damage.

Many streets near the river remain closed as a precaution, and officials say the Thames itself is dangerous for those in the immediate vicinity.

"There have been many individuals drawn to the river bank but we're urging extreme caution," Chatham Mayor Randy Hope said in the statement. "A current of this magnitude can sweep you away in a second."

Fire and Emergency Services Chief Bob Crawford also warned that the water levels could put pressure on riverbanks and dikes, adding there's also a risk that debris building up in the river could exacerbate the flooding.

Days of mild temperatures and heavy rain have caused flooding in other parts of southern Ontario this week, including Brantford and Orangeville.

The city of Brantford issued a state of emergency Wednesday when warm weather and torrential rain caused an ice jam on the Grand River, forcing nearly 5,000 people from their homes. The state of emergency has since been lifted.

Also on Wednesday, a three-year-old boy went missing in the Grand River when fast-moving waters swept him away from his mother's grip after their van plunged into the water in Orangeville, about 100 kilometres from Brantford.

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