It was nearly one year ago that the town of Wolseley was forced to declare a State of Emergency and evacuate some 300 people from their homes after being threatened by rising flood waters.
On Tuesday, June 21st 2011 heavy rains submerged the town of Wolseley, flooding the town and causing the spillway to overflow.
“It started raining significantly on Monday (June 20) and the highway was shutdown west of town at about 10:30 that morning. It continued to rain that afternoon,” Dennis Fjestad, mayor of Wolseley recounted. “The water coming over the dam was increasing, and by 9:30 p.m. it was coming over the sides of the spillway. The next morning there was significant flooding…we were trying to trench the land but realized we had lost the battle. We then declared a State of Emergency and started to evacuate people.”
Three-hundred residents were evacuated from their homes south of the tracks and moved temporarily to the Town Hall where the Red Cross and community members waited to provide support.
“Some people refused to leave, some said they were staying in their homes and they had that right,” said Fjestad.
“The feeling in the town was anxious. It was tense. I think a lot of the tension had to do with uncertainty; people didn’t know if it was going to get worse and worse, or better,” said Ed Attridge, town administrator at the time of the flood.
Attridge said while the town was under great stress, the community pulled together.
“It made us, as a town, aware of some of the necessities in dealing with an emergency,” said Fjestad. “It was a bit of a wakeup call.”
While the waters didn’t flood out any homes, it did cause devastation to businesses and put a great strain on the municipal infrastructure and budget.
Doreen Seamen, owner of the Wolseley Motel said the flood was devastating to herself and husband, Lloyd Seamen.
“I was sitting here and heard something,” she said from the motel situated along the south side of Highway 1. “It was the water rushing in. When it started coming in there was just no way of stopping it.”
Seamen said the water rose at least 15 feet above the neighbouring culvert, spilling onto her property and filling the basement of her motel. The water rushed in through two basement crawl spaces and rose to height of the basement light bulbs within 45 minutes.
“We were four inches from losing the motel,” she said, her voice shaky. “As far as your eye can see, we were under water.”
The water contaminated a $30,000 water purification system, destroyed all of the motel’s electrical and caused damage to the walls and stairs.
The motel was closed for two weeks while water was being pumped out and repairs were being completed.
Seamen, still visibly upset by the disaster, said walking away from the business was not an option.
“At first I don’t think I really soaked in what happened,” she said. “I was upset for a long time. The heartache it has caused me is just indescribable.”
Seamen was the first Wolseley resident to submit a claim to the Provincial Disaster Assistance Program.
After nearly six months of communications and more than 40 follow-up phone calls, Seamen received partial reimbursement of $38, 438.85 from PDAP. She lost $44, 438.85 which will never be recovered.
Both Fjestad and Attridge agree the town of Wolseley has not fully recovered from the flood of 2011.
Work is still required on the spillway and the raw water line must be reengineered.
PDAP will offset the cost of the structural repairs and preventative measures, although a $21,000 deductible will be charged.
PDAP is designed to help residents, small businesses, agricultural operations, communal organizations, non-profit organizations, parks and communities recover from the effects of natural disasters, including flooding, tornadoes, plow winds and other severe weather.
PDAP is not a substitute for private insurance nor does it provide full compensation for losses. Instead, the program covers damages to uninsurable, essential property.
PDAP is a cost shared program which covers up to 95 per cent of all eligible expenses (less taxes) incurred because of a natural disaster. The claimant is responsible for the other 5 per cent. Homeowners may be eligible for up to $240,000 in compensation. They may also be eligible for up to $30,000 or six months of temporary relocation expenses. Small businesses, agricultural operations and non-profit organizations may be eligible for up to $500,000.
In 2011, 402 separate flood events in 330 communities have been declared eligible for assistance from the PDAP. Residents, businesses and municipal governments in these communities may receive compensation for uninsured losses resulting from this year’s flooding.
“It’s absolutely essential to have provincial assistance during an unexpected emergency event,” said Attridge. “The municipal tax base for a town the size of Wolseley is absolutely incapable of dealing with a sudden, unforecasted, unbudgeted emergency such as a flood.”
“If we had to foot the bill it would have been an extremely difficult item because we’re looking at significant dollars here and it would be a burden on the ratepayers,” Fjestad added.
According to a PDAP spokesperson, the town of Wolseley submitted 129 claims with an approximate value of $1 million dollars from April 1, 2011 to June 7, 2012.