Anxiety for Deer Lake homeowners as Humber River bank threatened by impending weather

The situation is getting worse for a Deer Lake neighbourhood threatened by shifting and eroding ground near the bank of the Humber River.

Mayor Dean Ball says situation likely to get worse Wednesday as rain and warm temperatures expected

Land on Pine Tree Drive in Deer Lake continues to erode, nearly a week after flooding in the area compromised the river bank. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

The situation is getting worse for a Deer Lake neighbourhood threatened by eroding ground near the bank of the Humber River.

The Town of Deer Lake is still advising residents of Pine Tree Drive to leave their homes as the earth continues to shift in the area, threatening at least four homes and prompting Newfoundland Power to move utility poles further away from the riverbank.

Rain and unseasonably warm temperatures are in the forecast for Wednesday morning, something that Mayor Dean Ball says could further damage the already compromised river bank, as well as the houses and water and sewer infrastructure in the area.

"Things are not looking great," he told CBC's Corner Brook Morning Show.

"We all like a little bit of warmer temperatures in January, but right now for us that's certainly going to be havoc for us."

On Tuesday evening, the provincial government issued a statement that said significant rain and or snow is expected tonight through Wednesday, and warned that increased water levels and snow melt could loosen soil, making riverbanks and coastal areas more unstable.

"Residents and communities are asked to use caution and to take measures to ensure personal safety," reads the statement.

Deer Lake Mayor Dean Ball says the town is preparing for the worse with regards to homes and infrastructure threatened by the eroding river bank on Pine Tree Drive. (CBC)

Now that the power line has been moved, Ball said the main concern is now the roadway itself, and water and sewer lines which are now only less than three metres from the Humber River. Ball said sheds, garages, fences and other parts of properties on Pine Tree Drive are also shifting and being threatened by the erosion.

Volunteer evacuation plan

People who live on Pine Tree Drive have been told there is a volunteer evacuation plan in place and that specifically, four homeowners should pack up and leave their homes.

We can't force anybody to leave their house. That's not our decision to make unless it becomes immediately life threatening.- Dean Ball

The Red Cross has also set up an evacuation centre where people can stay if the bank continues to erode.

"We can't force anybody to leave their house. That's not our decision to make unless it becomes immediately life threatening," Ball said,

He said the people living in the houses are all related in some way. "That's a good thing," Ball said. "In small communities people look out for each other."

This leaning utility pole on Pine Tree Drive in Deer Lake prompted town officials to ask four nearby homeowners to evacuate on Monday. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

Ball said town officials are continuing to monitor the situation on Pine Tree Drive, and are preparing for the worse ahead of Wednesday's weather. He said if a mandatory evacuation is necessary, the town will be ready to spring into action.

The town also held a meeting on Sunday to discuss the evacuation plan, and to advise residents on what to do if and when the situation worsens.

Can't turn back time

Some have criticized the fact that homes were ever built so close to the bank of the Humber River, something Ball said is a moot point as nobody can go back and change what happened decades ago — when it was common for people to build homes in areas that would likely not be approved today.

"There are lots of people that have opinions on what you should or shouldn't do. But unfortunately when people settled in Newfoundland, people were given a free right to build wherever they want most of the time," he said.

"In this community, if we had 50 years back would we make changes? Sure we would. But none of us have that option today."
 

With files from Corner Brook Morning Show