The results of the qualitative component show a wide range of experiences according to the information obtained from the focus groups. While some participants had little psychological impacts and considered themselves to have been put in a well-managed and controlled situation, others experienced a great deal of stress and considered their organization to be unprepared. However, most agreed that the 2019 floods were more difficult because of the size of the area affected and their duration. Paradoxically, these would have affected fewer citizens, as many homes in the flooded areas had been demolished following the 2017 floods. Moreover, in addition to these two close series of floods, some territories had also experienced high wind events and even a tornado. This recurrence of disasters had both positive (team experience) and negative (population and responder fatigue, financial limitations, etc.) impacts on the response processes and professionals involved. Furthermore, in several regions, the various disasters occurred in the same economically vulnerable areas, where sometimes the victims were still recovering from previous flood events.
Several lessons to better manage these types of events were learned, including the relevance of complementing conventional support services, such as home visits by firefighters or police officers, with the presence of psychosocial workers. Another example, this one taken from the 2017 floods, would be not to mandate residential evacuations, even if a local state of emergency has been declared. It is far more effective to “strongly” suggest or insist on doing so, all on a voluntary basis. Thus, a more humane and collaborative approach, rather than a coercive one, was suggested by focus group participants. Likewise, it was suggested that municipal staff should accept the fact that people attach a great deal of importance to their homes, and respect their choice not to evacuate them. Consequently, the focus groups were an opportunity for feedback, as well as an opportunity to strengthen collaborations in disaster management.
On the quantitative side, the study shows, among other things, that flood victims are four to five times more likely than unaffected people to have a mental health disorder. This psychological response is greatly influenced by exposure to primary stressors (e.g., the height of the water in the home and the extent of material losses), but also to secondary stressors (e.g., insufficient assistance received, financial difficulties, ongoing material damage over time). In addition, a significantly higher number of flood victims reported physical health problems, especially respiratory problems. Thus, they report almost three times more respiratory symptoms, and more diagnoses of rhinitis and asthma than those who are not affected.
However, it was not possible to adequately cross-reference the results of the first part of the follow-up study with the hydrometeorological data as originally planned due to the COVID pandemic. Being affiliated with different public health authorities, the research team members had to shift their efforts to other tasks, which delayed and complicated the data collection. In addition, the technology initially chosen proved not to be optimal for collecting the data needed for this specific study and efficiently creating the required maps. The research team considers that another strategy should be adopted if the study involves new phases or if it is replicated elsewhere.
Finally, a particular feature of the data collected in both components of the study is the over-representation of the small municipality of Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac in the sample. The victims in this town seem to have been more willing to respond, having been more severely impacted than the average for other disaster areas (value of financial losses, duration of relocation, etc.). The distinctive feature of this flood was that it was caused by both a natural phenomenon (spring flooding) and a technological failure (dam failure).