The Municipality of Wawa in northwestern Ontario has called on the province to provide assistance in the wake of recent heavy rainfall that could cause flooding-related damage in the tens of millions of dollars.
The municipality declared a state of emergency on Oct. 26 after heavy rainfall and runoff resulted in flooding and severe damage to the Trans-Canada Highway, shutting down travel in both directions near Catfish Creek. The rain caused the creek to overflow, washing out all major roads and a large section of the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 17).
The municipality reported that washouts and road closures had stranded the Michipicoten First Nation from the municipal road system, Highway 101 east of Wawa was closed because of flooding, and Tremblay Flats Road was closed after being severely damaged.
Members of the Wawa Volunteer Fire Department were on scene several kilometres north of Wawa on Oct. 26 to rescue travellers and others who had been trapped at a motel due to excessive flooding and a highway washout.
Despite the rain having stopped 36 hours earlier, flood conditions on Oct. 27 continued to worsen and hamper efforts to assess the true extent of the damage.
Efforts were under way on the weekend to estimate total damage, which is thought to be in the tens of millions of dollars, notes a municipal statement.
“Wawa is a large area and we are now only beginning to understand the depth of the damage due to this flooding,” Mayor Linda Nowicki said on the weekend.
The municipality requested assistance from the province to locate materials and equipment to assist in repairing municipal roadways. Information from contractors for the province had indicated that Highway 17 south to Sault Ste. Marie would not open for two days and Highway 17 north to White River would be closed for at least a week.
“Our community should not be penalized because the Province of Ontario did not make provisions with its contractor to have the necessary materials and equipment on site to deal with this disaster,” Mayor Nowicki said.
“The Trans-Canada Highway is a major southbound artery; it is vital to the community and local industry,” MP Michael Mantha said. Beyond needing the government’s assistance to repair the highway and smaller roads that have been damaged, “there is concern that local bridges have been damaged. We need to ensure they are properly repaired.”
Madeleine Meilleur, community safety and correctional services minister, noted on Oct. 28 that the Commissioner of Community Safety would be arriving Oct. 29 to meet with local officials.
Among other things, provincial government staff are also helping municipal official with their application for the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program. The program is designed to help municipalities, individuals, farmers, small businesses, and non-profit organizations rebuild after a natural disaster.
Images: Copyright 2012 Chris Benka