The mayor of Fort Frances is urging caution as the town works to address potential flood risks in the face of rising waters.
During Tuesday night’s meeting of Fort Frances Town Council, mayor June Caul provided a regular update to the rest of council and the public. The mayor noted that she had taken a tour of the town earlier that day to take stock of where things stand for the municipality in regard to flood risks.
“We know it’s getting dire here, and increasing every day,” Caul said.
“I just want to give a little bit of information. At 2:30 this afternoon, the water level is at 338.827 metres. That is higher than it was when we had the flooding in 2014. In 2014 the high water level was 338.4, so we’re just above that right now. The scary part is, within the next week, if we don’t get any rain, we’re going to exceed the 1950 water level. That water level was at 339.2.”
Caul said the town is going to be continuing their sandbagging efforts, noting that more bags will be added along the waterfront as necessary.
However, the mayor also noted some areas are already facing the worst-case scenario.
“The beach of the entire Point Park is going to have to be sandbagged, because we’re getting to the point where the north side of the beach is just about completely gone,” she explained.
“As well, around Seven Oaks we can see a lot of it has been taken away. I know it’s been blocked off, it’s barricaded to go down to Seven Oaks completely now, so please don’t move the barricades, please don’t go down there. If it continues to rise as badly as we’re afraid it will, we may have to close the entire Point Park for people’s safety. Just please keep that in mind.”
Caul noted that volunteers are still being welcomed to go down to the Public Works yard from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. to help with sandbagging, and she said any assistance the public can give, even if it’s something like tying off filled bags, is helpful and appreciated.
“Children from grade 8 at the high school were filling sandbags to help out,” Caul said.
“If you can come on a lunch break, if you can come in even for a couple of hours, or any time at all in a day, they really need some help. If it’s at all possible, if you have any time whatsoever, please try to go down and help in any way you can.”
As the water continues to rise, more obvious efforts to fight back the water are popping up around town. Sandbags have begun to appear over storm sewer drains along the waterfront in an attempt to keep them from backing up, and a crew from Armstrong Crane was spotted lifting cement blocks onto the deck of the Hallet on Wednesday to keep it weighed down.
As of Wednesday, May 25, the town has officially closed Front Street between Minnie Avenue and Williams Avenue, Calder Drive from the camping area around the loop to the Vanjura ball diamond, and the Sorting Gap Marina Gas Docks.
The province of Ontario has activated the Disaster Recovery Assistance for Ontarians (DRAO) program for those in town and provides assistance for emergency expenses and the costs to repair or replace essential property following a natural disaster not covered by insurance. The program applies to a primary residence and its basic contents, or to a small business, farm or not-for-profit organization. Low-income households can apply for assistance for damage caused by sewer backup, which is not otherwise eligible under the program. For more information on the program, visit ontario.ca/DisasterAssistance, call 1-877-822-0116 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing will also be hosting a virtual information session on the program in the near future.
The U.S. National Weather Service has warned that water levels this summer will likely break current all-time high records in the Rainy River Basin.