Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Residents, businesses battling flood

Torrential rainfall last week has Rainy Lake at its highest level since 1950 and the Rainy River higher than it’s ever been in the past 85 years, leaving district residents and businesses dealing with rising shorelines, washed away docks, and flooded basements.
But facing the crisis has been made a little less painful due to some municipal assistance.

Idylwild Drive resident Jim Cuthbertson said the preliminary damages to his property already are comparable to that of the 2002 flood. 
“My basement flooded on Saturday, my dock went under and started coming apart, and now I’ve started losing my waterfront,” he said yesterday. 
“The water has actually started to make a river between the two lots here,” Cuthbertson added. 
Although Cuthberson already has laid out four pallets of sandbags, he said he’s already on the market for more, noting he’s more prepared for rising water than he has been in years past.
“The difference this year is that the town helped me bring in sandbags,” Cuthbertson explained.
“Last time I had to bring a load of sand in and fill the sandbags myself.
“I had about a foot of water in my basement [in 2002],” he continued. “But this time, I only had a couple of inches because I had it under control with sump pumps and stuff.
“I didn’t have those back then.”
But despite having taken precautions against the rising water levels, Cuthbertson said his property already is “super saturated.”
“The wind is switching to the east so it’s going to start getting rough out here tomorrow [Wednesday],” he lamented.
“But I think I am under control.”
“What can you do?” he reasoned. “It’s Mother Nature and she’s tough.”
One local business owner who is seriously concerned about the rising lake level is Paul Noonan, owner of La Place Rendez-Vous.
Public Works staff, who got a hand from OPSEU volunteers who happened to be in town Monday, have fortified the deck there with sandbags. But Noonan feels he’s going to have to do more to safeguard the property.
“[The water level] is coming up,” he warned. “If we get any east wind at all, it’ll be over [the sandbag barrier] no problem.
“We’re definitely concerned,” Noonan stressed. “The biggest issue for us is the protection of the hotel itself.
“The docks out front of our place are definitely in jeopardy,” he added. “I doubt very much they will last another east wind, for sure.
“But the primary concern is the shoreline infrastructure—the building, the deck, things of that nature,” Noonan said.
“And right now, the water is approaching dangerous levels so that if there was any continued wind from the east and additional rainfall, it could be lapping up against the building almost.
“We could end up with erosion and who knows what?” he remarked.
Noonan also said it feels odd to look out the windows of La Place Rendez-Vous and not see the government dock intact, adding it breaking apart Saturday demonstrated the poor shape it was in.
“I used to think that it wasn’t all that bad; that they could come in and shore things up and get it back in operation,” he admitted.
“But seeing how easily it was taken out, I guess there was a lot of weakness to it.
“On the other hand, maybe this will cause something else to happen?” Noonan speculated. “Maybe we could end up with a new dock out there or at least clean up the area that’s there?
“If you could look at a silver lining, that would be it.”
A little further east, Darlyss Krienke of Rusty Myers Flying Service said their property is in similar disrepair.
“Everything is completely underwater,” she remarked. “It looks like we are growing barrels here, actually.
“You can’t even see the dock.
“The water covers the cement pad and it’s ready to go into our dock shed,” added Krienke.
“It’s not a pretty sight.”
Employees have spent countless hours sandbagging the lakefront with materials supplied by the town, which Krienke said has been invaluable to the operation.
“The town actually brought us in some pallets of sandbags, which has been a very nice help,” she noted.
Although the rising waters gradually are engulfing the property, the operation remains in full swing. 
“We had to purchase floaters to try and park some of our planes,” Krienke explained, noting that recovery has been a work in progress.
“We just keep going,” she enthused. “It just takes longer to load the planes and longer to unload them going through the water.
“Our customers have to go through a little obstacle course to actually get on the plane,” she added.
“It’s been interesting but we’ll make it through.”
For Bruce Caldwell, who lives across the road from the Fort Frances Airport, where Frog Creek runs through his property, he said the creek has become “a river.”
“We’ve never had it quite so wet,” he noted. “I had a water pump in the creek, just to water the garden and all that, and it disappeared on me.
“It’s out there and I think I can get—sometime.
“It’s generally wet,” Caldwell lamented. “You can’t cut the grass. The ground’s just too wet, it’s very spongy. There’s so much water in it.”
Caldwell estimated Frog Creek is up three feet.
“It’s a river instead of a creek,” he remarked, though adding it’s not quite as bad yet as in 2002.
“But it’s getting awful close,” he warned.
“It’s too bad they had to shut down some of the [dam] gates,” Caldwell said.
“It was going good there a while but you can’t please everybody, I guess.”
Caldwell said that aside from the “missing” water pump, none of his property has been damaged by the water—yet.
“Not so far. As long as it doesn’t come up another foot, we’ll be all right,” he chuckled.

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