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by Brad Aubin
Tribune

West Nipissing has been feeling the wrath of Mother Nature as precipitation, melting snow and ice and high winds combined to make area lakes and rivers rise to flood levels late last week, and more rain in the forecast this week is causing another wave of alarm. Lake Nipissing rose higher than it has been in years, flooding shorelines and roads, with particularly destructive consequences in low-lying areas such as Jocko Point.

The situation forced the Municipality of West Nipissing to declare a State of Emergency on Thursday, May 9, closing several washed-out roads and warning waterfront property owners to be prepared for potential evacuation.

“The point that you decide that it is an emergency is if there is a potential displacement of a lot of individuals or a significant expenditure of money to manage the situation that is emergent or when we have to deploy a bunch of people to work at a common cause to address any issue that could be very problematic,” explained West Nipissing CAO Jay Barbeau. “[In West Nipissing] we have 500 homes that are potentially affected in the watershed zone. Of those, approximately 300 are permanent residences… all people who may potentially be displaced.”

Barbeau said that early last week, he had received information from the flood management committee (made up of various shareholders such as municipal officials, the North Bay Mattawa Conservation Authority, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and dam operators) that the lake was going to rise 6 inches (15 cm) gradually – before things took a sudden turn for the worst.

“It was supposed to be gradual so we weren’t going to declare an emergency. We were still managing and had advised people along the lake to take precautions and buy sandbags. Then it got worse,” he recounted. “Then it turned into 40-50 ml of rain and strong easterly winds, and 9 inches instead of the 6. So we ordered 10,000 more sandbags, and [then] ordered 20,000 more. We asked, ‘are any of our roads going to be compromised?’ They said yes, and [provided] the list of roads that will be compromised and under water, and that changes the whole thing to an emergency. Now we’ve got a problem. We have access issues now. …We declared the emergency.”

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