THUNDER BAY – Leaders Ledger – In the early morning hours of Monday, May 28, our city experienced an unprecedented event. Starting at 1 a.m., more rain fell in three hours than normally falls, on average, in the entire month of May. The ground was already soaked from rain the week before. That deluge set off a chain of events that has had serious consequences for many residents and the city as a whole.
By 7 a.m., the city’s Emergency Operations Control Group gathered to respond. By 8:15 a.m., the emergency was declared so the city could co-ordinate assistance efforts with other levels of government.
Some people are asking why the pump room flooded at our state-of-the-art sewage treatment plant. The short answer is that the intense rainfall of early Monday morning was an extraordinary act of nature. A complete assessment will take weeks and months. I can assure everyone that city council and the community will be given a full understanding of what happened at the plant.
This is not the time to point fingers. This is a time for response. This is a time to help people. There will be a time to discuss what happened — now is the time to look after our citizens in need. No stone will be left unturned, no one left behind.
In the days since Monday I have personally toured the affected areas and talked to the residents there. Their stories are heart wrenching. Their homes have been damaged. Valuables have been lost. Those who have no insurance, or cannot get flood insurance, are wondering where to turn to avoid financial devastation.
To say we are the city with a giant heart is an understatement. Emergencies such as this remind us of how much we have to be grateful for in this community, starting with our caring, resilient, courageous citizens.
There has been an outpouring of support from residents. Anyone who wants to help or needs help can call 98-FLOOD (983-5663). The Canadian Red Cross and the Salvation Army stepped up immediately, providing food, water and shelter to anyone in need. By Wednesday morning, they had launched national appeals to accept donations of funds to assist flood victims.
We are grateful for the foresight of council and the province in supporting the Lakehead Region Conservation Authority to dredge portions of the floodway last year. Without that project, who knows what might have happened. The floodway did its job and this major incident points out the importance of regular maintenance.
We are also grateful for our Members of Provincial Parliament Michael Gravelle and Bill Mauro and Members of Parliament John Rafferty and Bruce Hyer. They are all working hard and doing their part to assist us in this time of need.
I spoke Wednesday with Premier Dalton McGuinty who stands ready to assist, as does federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews.
We held a special meeting of city council on Wednesday night to secure approval to ask the province to declare the city a disaster area for the purposes of the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program and to direct the city manager to explore all options for financial assistance for flood victims.
From the outset, the Emergency Operations Committee has been on top of the issue and is meeting twice daily and providing regular updates(www.thunderbay.ca/flood). We are responding to needs as they emerge. We have removed the bag limit for garbage collection for residents and businesses affected by the flood until further notice and put in place a special large rubbish collection service. We will continue to respond hour by hour, day by day.
I am so proud to be part of this community. In the face of unspeakable tragedy we have seen remarkable courage and determination. We have seen the most extraordinary acts of generosity, kindness and compassion from individuals and businesses, alike. We have seen people across the city conserve water to help people elsewhere.
We have truly witnessed a coming together of the community. That spirit will see us through the weeks to come as we move from first response to relief and recovery.
Mayor Keith Hobbs