Flooding in Ontario: How one community is coping

Canadian Red Cross blogger Stephanie Murphy recently spent time in flood-impacted communities in Eastern Ontario and shares this update.

Clarence-Rockland is a city of just over 22,000 people, about 40 km east of Ottawa. Many of the city’s residents live along the Ottawa River, which is currently at its highest level in decades. Out of approximately 140 homes in the river’s vicinity, 24 have been evacuated and others are still dealing with dangerously high water levels.

The Canadian Red Cross is currently working in Clarence-Rockland to register residents impacted by the floods, provide information, hygiene kits and clean-up kits.

To ensure residents are coping with the flooding, the Clarence-Rockland Fire Department has been performing daily wellness checks. On Friday, they were kind enough to let me accompany them on wellness checks in the area, to help Canadians understand the impact of the floods in this region. I got to go with them to speak to some of the region’s most flood-affected people and see how they’re handling this emergency.

Firefighters Mike and Tom
Firefighters Mike and Tom doing wellness checks around the flood-affected areas.
The road is completely submerged
The road to Clarence Island has been completely submerged
Sandbags kept water out of basement
One resident call this his “bunker” – it kept almost all of the water out of his basement.
Shed submerged by water
A submerged shed demonstrates how high water levels are in the area
Sandbags protect a resident’s home in Clarence-Rockland
Sandbags protect a resident’s home in Clarence-Rockland
Sandbags contaminated from river water
The sandbags that have protected many houses are now contaminated from river water.
A gazebo in a resident’s backyard surrounded by water
A gazebo in a resident’s backyard
Wooden structure in the distance surrounded by water
This photo was taken from a resident’s back deck. The wooden structure in the distance is normally where the water begins.

I travelled around with Tom, who’s been with the fire department for about seven years, and Mike, who’s been a volunteer firefighter for 11 years. Both men volunteered this past weekend when the flooding began, helping fill and stack sandbags to protect residents’ homes. They say hundreds of volunteers – some local, some from as far away as Renfrew – showed up to help, thanks to a community Facebook page that organized efforts.

Extremely high water levels are bad enough, but there are additional concerns for residents of the area. Some homes are without hydro, meaning gas water pumps had to be used to get water out of homes. These pumps give off carbon monoxide gas, which can be extremely dangerous in enclosed spaces.

The river water also has high levels of E.coli bacteria. Not only does this mean affected homes will have to be properly de-contaminated after water levels recede, it also means many residents can’t drink their well water at the moment. Part of the wellness checks involved handing out bottled water and informing people of the process needed to test their drinking water.

As you can see from the pictures, the levels of flooding vary among the houses. Many were lucky to have sandbags in place early enough to avoid significant amounts of water getting inside their homes. Some people have been able to begin the clean-up process, while others still can’t reach their homes without taking a boat. Water levels are currently receding at around three to four inches per day, but even so, the recovery process will be long.

Learn more about the response to flooding in Ontario

Those interested in supporting the recovery efforts can visit our Spring Flooding Appeal to donate.

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