District slowly returning to normal

All main highways will be opened soon, Rainy River and other communities have been downgraded from a state of emergency, and flood waters are receding as communities get back to normal.
As reported in Thursday’s Daily Bulletin, Highway 71 to Kenora is now open to daytime traffic, with a detour at Nestor Falls, while Highway 11 at La Vallee also has resumed normal traffic flow, noted MTO regional director Larry Lambert.
“The Trans-Canada Highway and major highways have been our chief focus,” he said.
Highway 502 to Dryden remained closed as of press time but could be opened by the end of Friday.
But Highway 11 east of Fort Frances is not expected to re-open until Wednesday because a bridge has to be put in at Price Creek. The highway suffered extensive damage when culverts washed out there.
“We’re bringing in a modular bridge,” said Lambert. “It arrives today [Friday] and will be placed beside the highway.”
Lambert expected the military-style bridge wouldn’t be in place until Wednesday, with MTO crews then spending the rest of the summer repairing that section of the highway.
Secondary highways such as 611 N, 617, 619, and 621 all remain closed at this point as work crews try to repair damage to roads, culverts, and shoulders.
“We’re trying to accomplish as much as we can before the weekend arrives,” Lambert said.
Highways may be open but Lambert still urged travellers to drive carefully. “People need to be aware that the roads are still very dangerous,” he cautioned.
He also said roads that were fine an hour ago or five minutes ago also could deteriorate rapidly because of the water damage.
“When the road looks good, people should still be cautious the shoulders in some cases are missing. When water is over the road, as it is in many places, you have no idea what is under that water,” he stressed.
While roads may be getting back to normal, communities across the district are still coping with rising water levels thanks to days of torrential rain.
Mine Centre residents spend the last couple of days sandbagging around homes near Little Turtle Lake, which one person said saw levels rise at a rate of half-an-inch per hour.
“If we wouldn’t have sandbagged, the house would have had two feet of water in it,” said a resident, who didn’t wish to be named.
In related news, Morley Township on Thursday requested the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing declare it a disaster area.
“The water is receding but there is still a lot of road damage as well as private damage,” said Morley clerk/treasurer Anna Boily.
La Vallee and Emo declared disaster areas earlier this week. As of press time, only Atikokan was still listed as in a state of emergency.
Power had also been restored to homes throughout the district by Wednesday, a Hydro One spokesman said Friday morning.
NDP leader and local MPP Howard Hampton was in the district Thursday to survey the damage. “In the short-term, [the Town of] Rainy River is going to be okay,” Hampton noted.
“I was in Rainy River yesterday and it was really heartwarming to see people in their 70s sandbagging next to kids who were 11 and 12 years old filling sandbags,” he added.