Now it’s time to clean up: Port Elgin EMO co-ordinator

January 18, 2010

This article appeared in the January 13th, 2010 edition of the Sackville Tribune-Post.

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Clean-up has begun in the storm-battered village of Port Elgin.

Thirty-six buildings in total were damaged during the winter storm that struck last Saturday, said Terry Murphy, the Emergency Measures Organization co-ordinator for the community.

“We just had a ballpark figure of approximately $750,000 – damage to homes and streets. That’s not counting the cost of this whole operation for contractors to clear streets and stuff like that.”

The estimate wasn’t done by professionals, he added.

“This was just done by firemen, going door-to-door, ‘What have you lost?’, ‘How’s your basement?’, ‘How’s your electrical panel?'”

Heavy snow turned to rain and caused massive flooding throughout the night, battering homes and cottages. Flooded basements damaged furnaces, hot water heaters, washing machines and furniture.

A report of the damage was sent to the EMO in Fredericton last Wednesday, Murphy said.

“They’ll decide whether there’s going to be financial assistance plan put in place.”

The Fredericton EMO will then send their officials to assess the damage in the community and decide how much financial aid they can provide.

“It’s not going to be 100 per cent recovery,” Murphy said. “People are going to take losses.”

Port Elgin Mayor Judy Scott asked Murphy last year if he would spearhead a community project to organize an emergency plan for a flood or a chemical spill.

The committee involved the fire chief, village residents and local nursing home employees.

The committee was planning on running a “table top exercise” – a disaster simulation – this month, he said.

“On Saturday night, we had our table top exercise.”

Murphy was very impressed at how well the community members worked together in the face of a crisis.

“There wasn’t one person who didn’t know what they were doing and everybody co-operated,” he said. “We didn’t lose any lives. We were very fortunate.”

People from surrounding communities were eager to help when their neighbours were in need, Murphy said.

“People came in with boats at midnight to help us. People came in with their tractors. It was just phenomenal how people came up to the plate and took their turn at bat.”

Despite all the work that’s been accomplished to date, there’s still much to be done in the community, Murphy said. Wells have to be tested and wiring has to be checked.

“Now it’s time to clean up.”

Port Elgin isn’t usually prone to flooding, he said. The wind conditions and the high tide combined, creating a “perfect storm.”

“The wind drove the water in so fast and so hard. At 9:30, (residents) were walking on the streets and at 10:30, they were knee deep in water,” he said.

There were 16 buildings in Indian Point affected by the floods, including a permanent residence, Murphy said. He estimated the damage to be about $1.3 million.

“There are quite a few cottages destroyed totally.”

Baie Verte and surrounding communities were also subjected to flooding.

Unfortunately, Canadian homes are not eligible for flood insurance, said a local insurance broker. Commercial buildings, however, are eligible – but it comes with a hefty price tag.

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Preparing For a Flood (Sidebar)

If you live in a flood prone area, the Emergency Measures Organization of New Brunswick recommends you have these items on hand in case of emergency:

  • At least 2L of water per day for each member of your family. Include small bottles that can be carried in case you need to leave your home.
  • At least 2L of water per day for cooking and cleaning
  • Non-perishable food items like canned food, energy bars and dried food.
  • Manual can opener
  • Flashlight and batteries
  • Candles and waterproof matches (or matches in a waterproof container)
  • Money
  • First aid kit
  • Medications for all family members
  • Emergency contact information
  • Copies of important family documents (in a waterproof container)
  • A change of clothes and footwear for each household member
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each household member
  • Toilet paper and other personal care supplies, such as moist towelettes
  • Safety gloves
  • Basic tools (hammer, pliers, wrench, screwdrivers, work gloves, etc.)

Daniel Goguen, an EMO co-ordinator for the Moncton area, also suggests watching media reports for weather warnings and removing valuables from your basement.
“If the electricity is affected, turn it off,” Goguen said.
Outdoor items such as lawn chairs and ornaments should be brought inside before a flood as they can cause injuries. Fill your bathtub and sinks with water as your water supply may become contaminated during a flood.
EMO recommends having enough supplies to sustain you and your family for 72 hours.

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