Minden hit hard but relief in sight
|By Mark Arike - Staff Writer | May 11, 2017
It’s an all too familiar sight for many Minden residents.
Sandbags around homes and businesses, several road closures and water seeping over the banks of the Gull River.
They lived through a similar nightmare four years ago—an event that was described as the 100-year flood. But after days of copious rain and rising water levels, the township once again declared a state of emergency mid-day Saturday and warned that 2013 levels were possible.
Brent Devolin, reeve of Minden Hills and warden of Haliburton County, said the water rose seven cm on Tuesday and five cm on Wednesday, bringing it within about three cm of the 2013 flood.
“We’re still not out of the woods,” said Devolin on Wednesday. “I’m not as despondent as I might have been 10 or 12 hours ago. What I can tell you after our conference call today, it’s the belief Twelve Mile [Lake] might crest today.”
This would have a positive impact on Minden because it connects to Horseshoe Lake and the Gull River, he explained.
“I’m hoping that within 24-36 hours that we could get to see the relief here,” he told The Highlander.
The recent increase resulted in the owners of Monk Funeral Home abandoning their business. A water main broke on Water Street but has since been fixed.
Even after the lakes crest, Minden will be dealing with more water than normal.
Levels in reservoir lakes have hit record highs and are expected to remain high until the end of the month. This is in large part due to rainl: 160 mms of rain fell onto an already saturated ground in less than a week, Devolin said.
When a state of emergency is announced, it’s a cue to residents to have an emergency plan in place. Property owners, especially those prone to flooding, should line their home with sandbags and evacuate if necessary.
Dozens of volunteers, including Grade 7 and 8 students, have pitched in to fill sandbags at the Minden community centre.
More than 40,000 had been prepared as of Monday, said Devolin. Half were made in two days. There are several road closures. The most recent is Bobcaygeon Road, which will be closed at 6 p.m. today (May 11). The bridge was closed Monday, forcing vehicles to detour along Deep Bay Road or Scotchline Road to get to the hospital or arena.
The Burnt River watershed has crested and may begin to recede, according to a press release. But residents are still encouraged to exercise caution, and avoid areas with fastflowing and high water levels.
Devolin and other local municipal representatives have participated in daily conference calls with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Parks Canada, the OPP and other organizations.
In recent days, he spoke to Minister of Municipal Affairs Bill Mauro and Toronto Mayor John Tory. Both pledged to offer support. On Monday. he received a call from Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.
Parks Canada manages water levels and flows in the Trent-Severn Waterway, which includes the affected watersheds.
In 2013, it came under scrutiny for poor communication. But things are different this time and Devolin believes they have done everything they can.
“We’ve never seen this water event outside of spring runoff,” he said in an interview. “We communicate every day—they tell us every logging operation, what they think the intended consequences are and then we have the subsequent conversation the next day [about the outcome]. They have abated as much water as possible along the way.”
Devolin said climate change is very real.
The last time this happened, the community raised more than $710,000 for affected residents.
At the time, fundraising was necessary to access additional financial support through the government-funded Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program. A total of $1.3
million in claims were paid out.
But due to changes to the program, it is unknown how money will be allocated. Devolin said the municipality is armed with about 25 questions for ODRAP representatives when they arrive to visit properties.
For information about road closures, volunteering or accessing help, visit the municipality’s website at mindenhills.ca.
Residents in need of food or household items can go to the community centre.
Those who have evacuated are encouraged to register with the Red Cross.
MARK ARIKE is a reporter for The Highlander.