As an experienced mortgage broker in Canada, Hatch is tuned in to the issues affecting homeowners across the country, which often go beyond mortgage rates and housing markets. This spring has been particularly difficult for many homeowners in the Ottawa Valley, both in Ontario and Quebec, as well as in areas of B.C. and other parts of central Canada due to intensive flooding.
May 2017 brought a record amount of rainfall and with it a torrent of devastation for thousands of home owners (over 4,000 in Quebec alone) living close to lakes and rivers in the affected areas. In parts of Quebec and Ontario, a ‘perfect storm’ was created by an intense, slow moving weather system, which released a huge and sustained amount of rainfall. Although we haven’t seen a storm of this magnitude in decades, such storms may become more common as our weather volatility increases with global warming. The deluge completely saturated the sponge-like ground, forcing excess amounts of water into the lakes and rivers. Thousands of homes along these routes were flooded with several feet of water, mixed with a toxic brew of overflowing sewage and debris.
Thousands of Volunteers Mobilize Across the Affected Flood Areas
As bad as this disaster was, and amidst the devastation and heartbreak it brought about, communities across the affected areas mobilized in a show of solidarity and support to prevent further damage and help those in desperate need of assistance on many levels. Thousands of volunteers, ranging from school-aged to old-aged worked their fingers raw and strained their backs, bagging tonnes of sand bags, to stop the flow of water even further onto theirs and their neighbour’s properties:
… at the Campeau Arena in Gatineau, where more than 1,200 volunteers came to fill sand bags. Families with kids as young as five and six lined up to help, small shovels digging into giant piles of sand on the rink floor. Adults piled the heavy sandbags on palettes as fork lifts moved others outside onto trucks to be transported to flood zones. Suddenly, at the signal of the local organizer who stood in the hockey announcer’s booth, everyone suddenly reassembled into a giant human chain, passing sandbags in snaking lines outside to the loading area. – Macleans
Emergency Relief Workers and Military Activated in Flood Zones
Municipal and provincial emergency relief crews also worked tirelessly around the clock and through the night to save property, and were re-enforced by assistance from thousands of soldiers in Quebec to help with sand bagging and other relief efforts. Emergency crews were also tasked with saving people from themselves as they desperately tried to salvage their homes from flood damage, often risking their own health and safety. Montreal’s Mayor, Denis Coderre summed up this sensitive aspect of the situation:
“I understand that morally or psychologically, physically, mentally, people are very, very tired. We’re talking 24 hours in a row of people helping each other,” Coderre told reporters. “But sometimes we need to protect people from themselves.” – Toronto Star
In some cases, people had to be evacuated from their homes for their own protection. Counselors were available in many areas to help with the very high levels of stress and grief experienced by homeowners and their families. Even in late May, some areas, such as B.C.’s Okanagan Valley, continued to deal with the direct effects of severe flooding:
Water in lakes and rivers throughout B.C.’s central Okanagan continue to rise past historic levels, but some residents are beginning to feel exhausted after weeks of preparing and dealing with floods. – CBC
Many Organizations and Individuals Contributed to the Relief Efforts
An array of organizations and businesses, large and small, also shifted into high gear with support measures for residents impacted by the intense flooding in Central Canada, helping to secure temporary shelter for displaced residents and emergency relief workers, with many people opening their homes for free:
Airbnb said Saturday [May 6th] it has activated its Disaster Response Program in Montreal, Ottawa and Gatineau, Que., to help residents impacted by the flooding in Quebec and Eastern Ontario. The short-term rental website says in the event of major emergencies it tries to help residents who have been displaced — as well as emergency relief workers and volunteers — find temporary accommodations with local Airbnb hosts who are opening their homes free of charge. – Huffington Post
As the torrential rains continued, day after day in early May, it seems that just about everyone who was able was pitching in to support efforts to limit the flood damage. Many residents in the Ottawa area, for example, used whatever means at their immediate disposal to see their neighbours and communities through these highly challenging times:
As the flooding entered its fifth day on Sunday [May 7th] stories of neighbours going to extraordinary lengths to help each other have become common place… Miled Haddad owns a towing company in Orleans… he borrowed a 21-foot flatbed truck and filled it with close to 100 sandbags to take to Clarence-Rockland. He said no one was paying him to do the work, but he felt he needed to be there. – Metro News
This was the worst flooding some of these regions of Canada have seen in decades, with water damage occurring up to half a kilometer from some shorelines. The following 10-minute video compilation provides not only a vivid overview of the devastation in the affected flood zones, but also displays how quickly, and at times heroically, communities across Canada mobilized in response to the dire needs of their neighbours and fellow Canadians.
The Generosity of Canadians to Help Those Stricken By This Disaster Will Hold Steady
As the clean-up efforts continue and the waters slowly recede, many homeowners will be reflecting on how the disaster impacts them personally. There will be questions of insurance, government and charitable assistance, logistics and living accommodations in the coming weeks to see them through the immediate future, but also on how to recover the from the partial or complete loss of their homes. For many homeowners, there will be significant gaps in what they’ve lost and what financial security measures will be readily available to them. From the outpouring of support we’ve witnessed during the flooding, at Hatch Online Mortgages we are optimistic that in the coming weeks and months, communities across Canada will continue to rally around those directly struck by the disastrous floods in the Spring of 2017.