A northern Ontario couple is lucky to be alive after flood waters nearly swept their home into Lake Superior.

The Sanders live near the town of Wawa where water from a freak rainstorm last week tore out highways and damaged bridges.

Highway 17 partially open

A section of the TransCanada Highway 17 north of Wawa that was washed out by the storm is still closed.

It's expected to take until the end of the week to repair the flood damage and re-open the highway to traffic.

The mayor of Wawa estimates the flood damage to roads and bridges will top $10 million.

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing says officials are working with Wawa to apply for the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program.

The Commissioner of Community Safety is also expected to visit Wawa on Monday.

Deb and Jim Sanders were inside early Friday morning when a creek on their property turned into a raging river.

"It created the river that surrounded the house," Jim Sanders said.

"I tried putting my foot in it and it just swept me away practically and I was holding on to the door frame."

The storm knocked out the phone lines and washed out their road.

But when part of the house broke away, they grabbed their pets and decided to take their chances with the water.

"It's noisy and scary and so you grab what you can," he said.

"We figured if anything happened we could jump out the back door and swim down to the beach or some damned thing."

The couple followed their dog through the dark bush for about a kilometre until they came across a trailer.

They spent the night and set off for help in the morning.


When part of their house broke away as flood waters rose, Wawa-area residents Deb and Jim Sanders grabbed their pets and decided to take their chances with the water. (Martine Laberge/Radio-Canada)

They say a hydro helicopter surveying damage spotted them and gave them a ride to Wawa.

The Sanders are staying with friends in town and said the community support has been overwhelming.

"At first people thought we were dead," Deb Sanders said.

"I mean we could have been. We could have been."

Their home is a total loss.

But after their ordeal, they are just glad they are on dry land with their two cats and dog.

"Wawa, I love you," she said. "Guys, thank you."