NTV’s west coast correspondent updates readers on the state of the area in the aftermath of heavy downpours which led to a state of emergency
The cleanup continues on the west coast of Newfoundland as people are seeing the full affects of the aftermath from heavy downpours and fast-melting snow that overwhelmed communities, leading to the declaration of a state of emergency, and millions of dollars in damage, during the weekend of January 13.
The Newfoundland Herald caught up with NTV’s west coast correspondent, Don Bradshaw, for an in-depth update on the flood, the aftermath, and the impact, if any, on the upcoming 2018 winter games.
The Perfect Storm
There was no shortage of panic when the state of emergency was first declared. The rapidly melting snow gave way to an incoming of floodwaters, which affected infrastructure in the surrounding areas of Benoit’s Cove, Corner Brook, Trout River, and more.
“It was one of those things that people didn’t really expect. We got the regular warnings and forecasts and whatnot, saying we were expecting some weather, but I guess it was the perfect storm, for lack of a better term,” Bradshaw explained.
“It just kind of caused more chaos than many people anticipated. Many people were caught off guard, even in Corner Brook here. They were making preparations in advance knowing that there was something coming, but even despite their preparations, their cleaning out culverts and making sure the water was free to flow, their system still got backed up and it was like that right around the west coast.
“I don’t think anybody ever anticipated, for example, to have two major roadways completely washed out. We get rain here all the time, and of course in spring we get all the snow melting from the hillside and everything so it’s not unusual, it’s just that the amount of water that there was is what caused the issue. I guess the fact that two major roadways completely washed out is a good indicator that this was something that wasn’t normal, or even close to normal.”
Newfoundland and Labrador has a tendency of acting like one small community whenever something goes awry, which is far from a bad quality to have. When people come together, as they do in our province, it speeds up the healing process and builds an everlasting support system.
“Pretty much everybody came out to help. The Saturday, the day of the storm when things were unfolding, one of the first things that I found when I went to the south shore down around Benoit’s Cove was a large pool of water across both lanes of the roadway, and there had to be say half a dozen or more guys there with shovels just trying to chip away at the snow built up at the sides of the roads, just to try and get the water flowing a little bit because that was one of the issues,” Bradshaw shared.
“With the snow built up on the side of the road, it was acting almost as a little bit of a dam. All of the water that was flowing out of the hillsides and whatnot, falling naturally with the rain, had nowhere to go and nowhere to run off. These guys weren’t wearing any type of identification showing that they were town personnel, they were just average guys that were trying to do their part. And that was kind of happening throughout the whole region.
“Whatever type of system it is, a snow storm, or wind storm, or anything like that, people are always ready to lend a helping hand and that was the case throughout the whole west coast that day.”
‘Can’t Argue with Science’
With the catastrophe being caused primarily by higher than average temperatures in mid-January, it is sure to bring up the oh-so-controversial topic of global warming.
“You can’t argue with science. You look at the stats, the figures and the studies, and you know the planet is getting warmer. The debate is over why it’s getting warmer and that’s where the controversy tends to develop, but numbers are numbers.
“The fact that we did get those temperatures at that time of the year was a clear indication that something is happening.”
As for the 2018 Newfoundland and Labrador winter games, with the Town of Deer Lake as host community, Bradshaw says there is no need to worry.
“The flooding slowed them down slightly. It certainly didn’t stop them. Especially when they were having issues with rising water and things over the last week or so, town council had to change their focus.
“They probably would’ve preferred dedicating most of their time to making sure that all the venues were ready, and the host committee had everything they needed, but they had to turn their attention to the water for a little while.
“It kinda slowed them down a little bit, but I think they’re gonna be ready to go.”