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Municipal authorities defend actions during Bolton flood

May 9, 2019   ·   0 Comments

Written By JOSHUA SANTOS

A number of residents have expressed concerns to municipal authorities in the wake of the Bolton flood. 

The Humber River overflowed its banked and seeped onto properties and homes, on March 14. Residents have detailed their experience in saving their loved ones and themselves noting that the incident could have been prevented. 

Representatives of the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), the Region of Peel and the Town of Caledon provided the Citizen a joint statement after numerous questions where sent to the appropriate authorities.

They note the TRCA that, to provide support to municipal partners during flood events, the TRCA operates a flood forecasting and warning program that operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

“Primary communication occurs through flood messages sent to media, school boards, municipalities, local conservation authorities, local police and emergency services,” the statement reads. “During the winter months, TRCA also undertakes monitoring of historical ice jam locations, and provides river ice outlook forecasts.

“Throughout the season, flood risk management staff monitored ice-jam locations, including two locations within Bolton, and provided updates to municipal staff. 

Ice jams were also cited in the flood messages issued to partners and the public throughout the season.” 

Two residents, Tracey Lehman and Yvonne McCabe told the Citizen they were concerned about flooding back in February. McCabe said she called the TRCA on Feb. 5 before going away on holidays. She said she was told by a TRCA representative that her concerns would be passed on. During her absence, neighbours texted her photos of the waters rising. Neighbours were old that concerns about trees and natural fish habitation prevented the Region to blast the ice build-up wish machines, so the ice remained. 

“Reports of ice jamming directly upstream of King Street and Old King Road were first received by the TRCA as early as February 2019,” the statement reads. “Water levels and thaw and freeze activity were being regularly monitored. The previously reported ice jams had shown signs of improvement and clearing by early March.”

The TRCA issued flood warnings on March 13 and 14, however, as the statement notes, “weather and natural conditions can alter ice conditions with little notice. This was the case with the recent flooding in Bolton.”

The Town of Caledon is responsible for emergency preparedness and planning for Caledon for which preparedness, recovery and education are key elements,” the statement reads. The Town works with partners such as the Region of Peel and TRCA as part of the 

Region of Peel’s Emergency Management (REM) Program during emergencies that may escalate beyond the scope of normal operations.  Through the REM, resources and services are coordinated, mobilized and communicated during and after the incident.

Upon receiving reports of flooding in the vicinity of King Street East at Humber 

Lea Road on Friday March 15, TRCA connected with the Town of Caledon, who was already on-site. The Town of Caledon, the Region of Peel and TRCA began emergency protocols which included mapping, a list of addresses that could be affected at different flood levels and evacuation planning. 

The water began to pool in the corners of Willow and James streets at about 3:30 p.m. By 4:15 p.m., it had begun to flow into the intersection from the storm drains. At 4:38, Tracey Lehman phoned the Town, and after initially not receiving an answer, phoned again only to be flipped over to the nightline, again with no answer. After not being able to reach the Town, Lehman called the regional line twice before being connected to a live representative, who then issued her a work order number.

In the midst of all this administrative efficiency, she watched as “the water on the west side of Humberlea let go. When the ice came down, it had nowhere to go…the ice was too thick on the river and it just went everywhere. In the meantime, the OPP and Region came around with a big pump, turned around, and said there was nothing they could do.” 

They then left without explanation.

By six pm, with water bubbling up from the storm drains and creeping up the driveways, first responders began to appear on scene. Evacuation began around 8:30, and close to midnight all residents were told to leave. 

According to the municipal authorities, communication was delivered through the Town’s website, social media and the Town smartphone app. This also included in-person information for residents at the Caledon Centre for Recreation and Wellness, which was the designated temporary evacuation centre during the flood.

Many people were unaware of the evacuation and command centres being set up at the Recreation and Wellness Centre, where one had to register on this list to be recognized as a flood victim. Many residents, like Lehman and her partner, went to stay with family and friends after receiving little to no guidance from officials who did not know much more themselves.

“If there are residents that continue to face issues related to shelter, they should contact Region of Peel Human Services at 905-791-7800, or contact a shelter directly at peelregion.ca/housing/shelters,” the statement reads.

Residents said they were left with the tasks of turning the hydro back on (up to $800 at their own expense, with Enercare not operating until the following Monday), pumping out what was left of the water, and surveying the damage to their property the following day,

Calls made to insurance companies were met with disappointing results about what would be covered, especially as only one affected resident had the “overland” flood insurance necessary for this sort of catastrophe (which, as one person pointed out, you have to specifically ask your broker for), and some residents had previously been told they could not be insured at all because of their property’s proximity to the river.

The statement reaffirms the Province’s commitment to offset costs.

The Province announced on April 2 that it will provide funding support to those affected by the Bolton Flood, through a program called Disaster Recovery Assistance for Ontarians program (DRAO). The disaster assistance program applies to a primary residence and its basic contents, or to a small business, farm or not-for-profit organization. 

After speaking with their private insurance provider, individuals and business were asked to check if they qualify and for application steps through the following channels: 

•Visit ontario.ca/DisasterAssistance 

•Call 1-844-780-8925 

•Email disasterassistance@ontario.ca 

“For me, it looks like I might get 90% of a new furnace, and that’s it,” Leham said to the Citizen. “I’ve done the math on this, and at the end of the day, I might get $2800 back [from insurance and the province]. And it’s going to cost up to $20-40 000 to redo the basement.”

With files from Kira Wronska Dorward



         

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