'Scary, unreal': 2 families told to leave homes as Deer Lake ice threatens

Two homeowners are leaving their houses behind, as more of the river bank is slipping into the water.

'I just finished packing up ... I'm still in shock,' says woman who had to pack up for parents

A new band of ice is causing concerns in Deer Lake. (John Pike/CBC)

Two homeowners are evacuating on the advice of government — and other Deer Lake residents are urged to remain on alert — amid new concerns that a large band of ice will "complicate" the already precarious situation of rising water levels and ice jams.

"The mouth of the Humber River, where it flows into Deer Lake, is blocked by an ice obstruction that stretches across to the eastern side of the lake," according to a news release issued Thursday afternoon by the town council. 

Christine May helped her parents pack up what they could, after officials urged them to evacuate their home in Deer Lake's west end. (John Pike/CBC)

Christine May's parents, who live on Pine Tree Drive in the west end, could not wait any longer. 

"I just finished packing up all the land deeds, insurance, the pictures, anything I can get off the walls or downstairs, all packed in Tupperware now," she told CBC News Thursday.

"[It's] scary, unreal. I'm still in shock," May added.

More of the bank is sliding into the Humber River, prompting town officials to remind residents to stay alert and be prepared to evacuate if necessary. (John Pike/CBC)

Another homeowner on the same street is also leaving, due to "considerable slippage of the bank into the Humber," said a media release issued earlier Thursday by town officials.

Residents in the following areas should remain on alert and be prepared to evacuate:

  • Riverside Drive.
  • Oakes Road.
  • Reginald Drive.
  • Tower Road.
  • Moss's Lane.
  • Bailey's Avenue.

The town has been under an evacuation warning since Monday, when the Humber spilled over its shores, threatening to reach homes. The town sits at the mouth of the river, where it flows into Deer Lake, which has been jammed with ice after a weekend of flooding across western Newfoundland. 

'Very quickly a lot of this could go'

Deer Lake Mayor Dean Ball said the two homeowners evacuating are getting assistance from the Red Cross and have family nearby which is a "positive thing."

He said the cold weather is helping the situation.

"The frost is in the ground. but the minute we get another downturn in weather, another hotspot or warmup or rain for that matter — what's behind us here it's all sand. So that will wash away and very quickly a lot of this could go," he told CBC News.

Deer Lake Mayor Dean Ball says stabilizing the surrounding banks is 'a big job.' (CBC)

It's a "big job" to stabilize the banks, he said. "This time of the year it's not an easy task."

Glimmer of hope?

The is some good news about flooding risks — water levels in the Humber River and Deer Lake have dropped by more than a foot from peak levels earlier this week, according to the town council. 

"I guess it's a sign of relief ... that's a very positive note for us," Ball said. 

Discussions have been underway on how to remove the ice, but details on that plan were not immediately provided.

With files from Peter Cowan