The ups and downs of life on the islands after a rain-soaked spring
All permits and programming are suspended until July 31, the city says
By Lucas Powers, CBC News Posted: Jun 11, 2017 6:00 AM ET Last Updated: Jun 11, 2017 6:00 AM ET
A rain-soaked spring fuelled flooding across the city's waterfront and low-lying areas. Long after the storms passed, high lake levels still threaten homes and businesses on the Toronto islands. And many of the city's summer staples like warm days on the beach, kids' camps and long weekend celebrations are going to be a little different this year.
The city gets soaked
In early May, a multi-day storm swooped in over the GTA. It's estimated between 70 and 90 mm of rain fell in less than 48 hours.
The rain threatened to shut down major arteries into the downtown core and flood basements across the waterfront and surrounding neighbourhoods.
Lawns become lakes on the islands
The potential for flooding is not new for residents of the Toronto islands. Many were hoping the high water levels were only a temporary inconvenience. Jimmy Jones told CBC Toronto he'd seen worse flooding in his decades on the islands.
But as it poured, it became clear things could get worse for island residents. An intense sandbagging effort began.
Ferry service to the islands was restricted to locals, city crews and emergency personnel. Ships were kept on standby in case the particularly vulnerable Ward's Island would need to be evacuated overnight. It's home to about 700 residents.
Storm's end brings little comfort
Even when the storm ended, the lake loomed large. Island residents were told that despite the blue skies, Lake Ontario could still rise another 25 centimetres before it reached its peak. More than 15,000 sandbags went down in strategic zones.
Large parts of the islands were already a wetland, however.
Carp found a new hole to call home on a baseball diamond.
People tried to enjoy usual islands delights. But it was, uh, difficult.
Tough times for business
Businesses that rely on summer tourism, like the Island Cafe on Ward's Island, are wondering if there's any hope. Owner Peter Freeman told CBC Toronto that business fell of a cliff. The Rectory Cafe just down the road has already decided to close in the fall.
Summer programming chaos
Weddings, kids' camps and special events are summer staples on the islands. Not so much this year.
Permits were originally suspended until the end of June. That deadline was quickly amended to the end of July. Three hundred permits, affecting 90 groups and 350 would-be summer campers, have all been put on hold until water levels recede.
Summer still missing on many city beaches
After a delayed opening, all 11 of the city's beaches are open to the public. However, most don't have lifeguards and haven't been tended by city crews yet. E.coli may also be a lingering problem in some swimming zones.
Making the best of it
It may not be ideal, but Torontonians are still trying to have fun. Pamela Fox said her walks along Cherry Beach have been "messy," but the dogs didn't seem to mind.
Severe weather warnings or watches in effect for:
A mix of sun and cloud
A mix of sun and cloud
Periods of drizzle
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