November wind and rain storm wreaks havoc in western Newfoundland

Cory Hurley
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CORNER BROOK  When you wake up staring at a stream flowing through your yard and directly into your house — a stream that wasn’t there when you went to bed — there’s not much to be happy about.

That was the case for some residents of Corner Brook Thursday as rain hammered down and they scrambled to secure their properties.

Culverts and small brooks could not handle the force of water in some places, particularly in the Curling area of the city. At least three parts of that area saw what were typically small streams turn potentially disastrous as water rushed over the banks and infrastructure, across city streets and through people’s properties.

Harold Byrne of Petries Street estimated thousands of dollars of damage was done to his property as water gushed around and through a culvert across the street next to a neighbour’s house. Amazingly, his home was staying dry inside as water rose up to his basement windows in the early morning. The redirected flow slammed against his house, washed across his lawn and driveway, through his property, and down over the hill behind his home throughout the day.

“When you get all your landscaping wiped out just like that, it’s hard,” he said. “I have been here 50 years, and I have never seen anything like this.”

Byrne was concerned about the damages, but he was most frustrated by the late response by city crews Thursday morning.

“I called about seven o’clock this morning, and the pipe was plugged then,” he said more than two hours later.

“Two minutes with a backhoe, and they would have all this solved. Ridiculous.”

He said he had called the city five times at that point, and had watched neighbourhood children walk the street to go to school. The road was blocked off to traffic later in the morning until mid-day as crews worked to resolve the problem.

Candow Drive

In Curling’s Georgetown Road area, a group of people gathered to watch a brook, which once flowed under Candow Drive, with water now rushing over the street. There appeared to be more water going over the road than through the culvert at some points.

Barbara Hunt lives on the corner of Georgetown Road and Candow Drive. She said this is far from the first time this brook had flooded area homes, but said this was one of the worst. Her husband Roy had built a shed on the corner of the property that wasn’t there the last time there was a problem. He was working hard Thursday morning to try and direct the water away from its foundation, hoping the structure wouldn’t be washed away.

“Years ago, we had a bad flood and lost about $4,000 worth of stuff,” she said.

“It’s not so bad this time, inside the house, but my backyard is gone. I don’t know where it went.”

Hunt thinks the culvert, which controls runoff from Second Pond, needs to be opened up to avoid these situations.

Residences along Candow Drive weren’t able to drive out of the area, although some managed to navigate their way along a road to Hilliard’s Road. Area residents said that way is supposed to be maintained as a secondary exit, but it is not.

“Some people said they got over it in truck, but they’d never get a car down there,” Hunt said. “It should be open. These people have to go to work, or imagine an ambulance trying to come up here today.”

City crews were continuing to assist with the re-opening of Candow Drive as of late Thursday afternoon.

Other areas

Crews also spent a lot of time on Petries Street helping a homeowner stop his trailer from toppling into a raging brook that was eroding the shoreline. The ground below one side of where the trailer was parked in the backyard had washed away, leaving the trailer sliding into the brook. It was slipping in on a grade that looked as if the trailer would turn on its side, as water gushed along the side that had already washed away.

City crews were working to clear a number of headwalls that were blocked by debris carried downstream — including St. Aidan’s Road, Georgetown Road, Wheeler’s Road, and Pike’s Avenue. Ditches in some areas also overflowed, including on Lundrigan Drive.

The Main Street bridge was closed as a precautionary measure due to the high water level of Corner Brook Stream. It re-opened late in the afternoon, but crews were monitoring in case it had to be closed again. As it has a number of times before, the water had risen up to the bridge and had overflowed along the trail and onto many downtown business properties.

City response

Steve May, director of operational services, said the city crews did a tremendous job responding to the many calls received Thursday. He said a best effort was made to prioritize calls — and maybe hindsight is easier to determine what that should have been — but, he said all calls deserved to get a response.

The director said the city prepared for the weather warning with its hurricane preparations, but there was still a lot more water than was expected running through the various systems. Debris running down these raging brooks caused blockages to culverts, according to May, and water overflowed the systems in certain areas.

“We had done everything we could possibly do,” he said. “However, that being said, some of the rivers and storm systems around were pushed, in many cases, to their max, and, a couple of cases, beyond their max.”

May said the residential layout of some areas of the city does not meet what would be considered appropriate under today’s regulations, he said. The Curling area’s topography is challenging, given that water flowing from the upper part that makes its way through residential areas as it goes to the ocean.

“We are being told by all the experts and government agencies that the new norm is to expect more frequent storms and higher runoff numbers,” he said. “All these little rivers and storms systems are expanding — they are pushing their banks, running over their culverts, when a bank gets founders it brings with it trees and debris and heavy rock. As it did today, it plugs up a pipe that has been in existence for 20, 30, or 40 years. What has not been a problem for us in the past, has now become a problem for us.”

While some of the infrastructure near city streets falls under city responsibility, May said the streams and systems themselves are provincial.

Meanwhile, Bell’s Brook had that much water flowing in it Thursday, that a resident of Valley Road evacuated her home because she was concerned for her safety.

While heavy rain caused most of the damage throughout the region, high winds had its impact too. Power was knocked out in a number of areas. Residents in Boom Siding lost power due to trees blown into power lines there, while Humber Village, Steady Brook, and Little Rapids also had unplanned power outages.

In the Stephenville-Port aux Basques area, residents were without power in Black Duck Siding and Stephenville Crossing. Power was expected to be restored in South Branch and St. Andrews by mid-afternoon. Power outages were also reported along the Northern Peninsula.

The weather led to a number of school closures throughout western Newfoundland. School closures — partial or full days — occurred from Port aux Basques to Deer Lake, Rocky Harbour to Englee, and various places in between. Schools in Corner Brook were not impacted.

Organizations: Little Rapids, South Branch

Geographic location: CORNER BROOK, Newfoundland, Curling Petries Street Georgetown Road Lundrigan Drive.The Main Street Valley Road Humber Village Steady Brook Stephenville-Port aux Basques Northern Peninsula.The Port aux Basques Deer Lake Englee

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