After the flood
By Sue Tiffin
Published May 25, 2017
Last week it was reported that the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a “doomsday” bunker protecting a reserve of almost 900,000 international food crop seeds deep within a mountain in Norway had flooded in October.
The designers expected some of the meltwater from damaged permafrost around the entrance to find its way in, so they say the seeds are not, and were not, at risk. Even still, the Norwegian government is putting plans in place to study the leakage issue and take measures to prevent it from happening again.
We are not always going to be fully prepared for what is about to come, even when we see it coming.
Minden Hills township saw the most recent floodwaters coming, and many in the community praised this year’s quick and proactive response compared to 2013, when what was then called a 100-year flood took the town by surprise.
But as the flood waters recede and remediation efforts take place, now is the time to look at what can be improved for next time – which, at this rate, might be as early as next year.
The newly acquired sandbag machine worked wonders, but more expertise in placing those bags was needed. The thin wall of sandbags at the Anson Street boat launch, as an example, wasn’t doing much of anything at all until HydroOne stepped in to properly barricade at least the river’s current. In a town where this has happened and will happen again, more training is needed to make efficient use of emergency workers’ time and prevent as much damage as possible.
Press releases are better than no press releases, and it’s admirable that some were even hand delivered this year. But more than 50 updates were overwhelmingly sent out in just over two weeks, some with information that needed to be clarified – like exactly who was or wasn’t allowed to walk on Bobcaygeon Road, and why exactly the main street bridge was being closed. Without full transparency of reasoning behind major decisions, it’s naturally more likely that rules will be broken, business in the flood zone will be affected and false information will spread.
Simply having a township social media page to share official photos of the flood waters and video updates of press conferences to seasonal residents and remind everyone to respect the situation could have cut back on disaster tourists (local or not) coming to check it out for themselves. It also would have allowed residents a controlled space to ask questions and have them publicly answered by people in the know.
In Clarence-Rockland, another Ontario community affected by flooding this year, a three-hour public information session gave people time, after workday hours when attendance could be greater, with city, regional and provincial officials – all broadcast live on social media by a high school media class to make it accessible even to those who couldn’t be there in person. A meeting was held when the flood began to inform people of what was happening, a few days later to ask what else they might need, and this week to discuss the aftermath. Suggestions from flooded homeowners in Minden like the need for a town master plan, investment in a Bailey bridge and permanent county leadership to maximize relations with upper levels are valid and deserve a town hall forum for discussion.
Township staff, volunteers and homeowners in the thick of it have been working around the clock for weeks. We can applaud so much of what went right, but looking at all aspects of the situation and how it was handled, in hindsight, is exactly what we need now to put this disaster behind us and immediately get organized for when it happens again.