Volume 12 Week 5

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Orléans Ward
Bob Monette

Beacon Hill,
Cyrville Ward
Tim Tierney



 

 

 

 

Man vs Nature
plays out in the
Battle for Leo Lane


After covering major floods on Mississippi Lake in 1998 and Lac St. Jean in 1996, you would you think I would have a better appreciation of the powerful force of nature that is a swollen river.

Having witnessed the flooding along the Ottawa River this past week and seen how it’s turned a little piece of waterfront heaven on Leo Lane near Cumberland Village into a living nightmare, I do now.

I also have a great deal of empathy for those same residents who had waged a five-day battle against Mother Nature before the inevitable happened on Sunday and the sandbag walls that had been protecting their homes gave way and the rising water flooded their homes.

To say it was heartbreaking is an understatement. My visceral response was a byproduct of knowing how tirelessly they worked to keep the water at bay.

Dan Larrivéeand the other two home-owners who were the last remaining hold-outs on Leo Lane, slept for only two hours at a time for fear their gas-powered pumps would run out of fuel. They had been doing this since last Tuesday when heavy rains caused the Ottawa River to swell and surround their properties.

For the first 24 hours they were largely on their own, but thanks to the power of social media reinforcements soon arrived in the form of dozens of volunteers. Some came from as far away as Plantagenet and Kanata.

Husbands came with their wives. Mothers with their children. Many with shovels in their hands ready to take the back breaking task of filling sandbags in the pouring rain that refused to stop through Thursday, Friday and into Satur-day. Others came with food, both for the residents and their fellow volunteers.

To say it was heartwarming is as big of an undertatement as the heartbreak that was to follow.

A swimming pool contractor had come from Rockland with his front-end loader and made trip after trip from the area where the sandbags wer being filled, to the homes where they were used to shore up the breakwaters that had been erected in the false hope that they would somehow be a match for Mother Nature.

For three days the residents were able to hold their own, wrestling Mother Nature to a draw in the Battle for Leo Lane.

The tide began to turn overnight on Friday when the pressure of the water pushing against the sandbags caused several breeches in the defences.

Every time an opening occured in the wall, Larrivée and the others managed to plug it with more sandbags in between refueling the pumps.

This went on all night and into the morning when dozens of additional volun-teers showed up to pick up where they had left off the day before.

Then, around 4 p.m., they got word that the power to the street would be cut off for safety reasons and that it would be in their own best interest to leave the homes they had been fighting to save for more than three days.

Reluctantly they left after being assured by the Ottawa Fire Service that they would continue to fight the Battle for Leo Lane on their behalf.

No one knows for sure when Mother Nature dealt her final blow, but by 11 a.m. on Sunday the pumps had been shut off and the homes abandoned after the sand-bags collapsed and the firefighters could no longer keep the water at bay.

Shortly afterwards, I toured the watery battlefield and assessed the aftermath. Where once the drone of gas-powered pumps filled the air and front-end loaders pushed their way through the deluge, was total silence except for the sound of waves lapping against the portions of the sandbag walls that were still intact.

By the time I got there the water had already inundated the ground floor of all three homes. One can only image the damage it will cause to the flooring, the drywall and the furniture.

Flood damage is rarely covered by home insurance, especially is you live on a river that’s prone to flooding its banks every spring.

The damage will be extensive and so will the debris that will be left behind.

There’s nothing that can be done in the Battle for Leo Lane now. Mother Nature is the victor. But after every battle, there is still work that needs to be done.

Here’s hoping that the volunteers who turned out to help fill the sandbags, will return 10 days or two weeks from now to help clean up the mess so that something good can come out of this devastating tragedy.

(If you wish to comment on this or any other View Point column please write to Fred Sherwin at fsherwin@magma.ca)

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