A thanks to St. Michael sandbaggers

FITZROY HARBOUR – Last Friday (June 14) Coun. Eli El-Chantiry headed to the Harbour to thank a group of young volunteers who were some of the first to respond to the call for help when flood waters were expected to hit the West Carleton community hard.

During Easter weekend the Grade 7/8 class at St. Michael’s School Fitzroy Harbour spent their time helping Willola Beach residents prepare for the expected extreme flooding. The class spent a rain-soaked day filling sandbags as residents desperately attempted to save their homes.

“The water rose like you wouldn’t believe,” teacher Caitlin da Siva told West Carleton Online from the school last Friday (June 14). “It was dry at the beginning of the day. The water was up to our ankles by noon and by the end of the day it was at our shins.”

Of the roughly 15,000 volunteers, St. Michael students were some of the first volunteers to pick up shovels and help residents prepare for the flood.

“I just wanted to say thank you,” Coun. El-Chantiry told the class. “For coming out and helping us during the flood. It meant a lot.”

The weekend was a significant time in the early days of historic flooding in West Carleton this spring.

“That was the last day we were able to sandbag at Willola Beach,” he said.

El-Chantiry said the students’ effort “became a real community builder. Sometimes even a bad situation can create good things.”

El-Chantiry said the flood taught the community a lesson – that lesson driven home by the selfless act of the young community leaders.

“This flood taught us a lesson,” El-Chantiry said. “We can’t do it alone. It’s okay not to be okay.”

El-Chantiry also provided some new numbers slowly coming out of the aftermath of the flood.

“We were in a state of emergency for 43 days,” he said. “In 2017, 517 homes in West Carleton were damaged. This time it will be more than 1,000 for sure. At last count 1,155 have contacted us asking for their foundations to be checked.”

With three natural disasters in the last two years, the city is learning as well.

“Every flood we learn something new,” El-Chantiry said.

This year’s lessons included staking roads to know where they lie when under water, not building sandbag walls against the houses they are protecting (“redundant”) and have a pump between the sandbag wall and the house – on the outside.

“Last flood cost the city around $12 million,” El-Chantiry said. “This one will be closer to $20 million. The water was 26 centimetres higher and the high water lasted 23 days longer than 2017.”

As to why the flood was so much bigger and so much longer “there’s still too many questions.”

But El-Chantiry says he is just looking for one answer.

“I just need one question answered,” he said. “Go fix your homes or no, it’s too much. We need to come up with a plan.”

Although the answer to that question might be expensive.

“Taking responsibility is taking on a multi-billion-dollar law suit,” he said.

El-Chantiry said Constance Bay residents are “meeting with lawyer Lawrence Greenspon and looking at a class action suit.”