Corner Brook couple afraid to return to home

Cory Hurley
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CORNER BROOK  Joan Hanlon and her husband Leonard are still out of their home after last week’s flooding.

The waiting to find out when, or if, they can return to the Valley Road house has been playing havoc on their emotional well being. Besides, Hanlon feels as if they are imposing upon the neighbour and friend who has graciously taken them in as they live in limbo.

Thursday’s flooding, which left many areas of Corner Brook in a mess, has led to safety concerns pertaining to the 70-year-old house, located atop a steep embankment overlooking a brook. That brook resembled more of a raging river last week, as heavy rains and runoff gushed over and through the shoreline and embankment. It swept away a downed tree that had been across the brook for years, according to Hanlon, and then took down another large tree from the bank.

A part of the bank eventually gave away adjacent Hanlon’s childhood home, and it was apparent that it was time to get out.

Tuesday, Hanlon stood atop the bank, nervous about even standing too close to the edge. Later in the afternoon, she was taking her husband to his doctor because she said he was not sleeping or eating well and has been anxious since the flooding.

They both have been, she said.

“I don’t feel safe,” she said about returning to the home.

“I am scared to death. What if we go in, and the house starts falling? We have more rain coming in the next few days. That is going to melt the snow we just had, and water is going to be rushing down the brook again.”

She was amazed by the surging water Thursday morning, but it quickly turned to panic as the landscape around them began to fall. She said city crews responded quickly to their call, and they were told they should leave their home immediately.

They listened.

Later Thursday, Hanlon went back to her yard, and spoke to a number of the city management and staff there. She was not happy with the response she received when she told management that she — as did her mother for years before — complained to staff about the downed tree that had been swept into the brook. Hanlon also said she approached the engineers in her yard, and they told her they should not stay in the house.

She and her husband listened again. They have continued to listen since, but she said there hasn’t been much to hear.

Their insurance provider informed them they did not have a claim. An adjuster was sent by the city to view the situation, and Hanlon is waiting to hear the results from the city.

She has not heard from the city since Friday when she received a call from Mike Dolter, the city’s chief administrative officer, and Mayor Charles Pender. She is not happy that she is left with this uncertainty, and not getting what she feels is adequate information.

“Who is going to give me the clear to go in?” she said. “The city told me to get out. Who is going to tell me to go back in? I don’t know.”

Meanwhile, Pender said he has been told city officials did not tell the couple to leave their home. He said city workers do not have expertise to do so, and that they would have to be careful in making such suggestions.

The mayor also said it is general policy not to address specific cases publicly, but acknowledged the city was assisting one resident in that area in dealing with damages as a result of the flooding. An adjuster visited the site and they are now awaiting a report.

The mayor said flooding such as the city experienced last week is characterized as an act of God. The city is not responsible for damages to individual properties. The city has contacted the provincial department of Municipal Affairs to alert them of the number of people in the city that may have claims to submit.

“We feel terrible for these people,” Pender said. “Obviously people’s lives are affected, their homes are affected. At the end of the day, if we didn’t do anything to cause this, generally it is not our issue.”

Unfortunately, submitting a claim through the provincial disaster relief is a long process that still may not result in coverage, said the mayor.

Organizations: Valley Road house, Department of Municipal Affairs

Geographic location: Corner Brook

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Recent comments

  • SM
    December 04, 2013 - 09:39

    Mayor Pender should consult his insurance company and ask them what a act of god is before he uses it as a excuse for the city