City declares weekend ice storm a disaster so homeowners can get flooding grants

The city has declared the weekend rain and ice storm a disaster so homeowners have access to compassionate grants — especially those in Stoney Creek.
Water flows outside Hamilton city hall this week after a weekend rain and ice storm. The city has declared the event a disaster so homeowners with flooded basements can apply for compassionate grants. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

The city has declared the weekend rain and ice storm a disaster so homeowners have access to compassionate grants — especially those in Stoney Creek.

The storm caused Lake Ontario waves to crash over break walls and flood lakeside homes in Stoney Creek and Winona, says Coun. Maria Pearson of Ward 10.

Now those with flooded basements, at least, can get grants of up to $1,000 through the residential municipal disaster relief assistance program. The city funds the program through its storm sewer reserve.

For most flooded homeowners, $1,000 won't be enough, Pearson said. But it's something.

"It's only a pittance, but it's a little bit of help we can provide," she said during Wednesday's general issues committee meeting.

For some homes, "I don't know whether they're going to be able to reconstruct them," she said. "It's absolutely devastating."

The city is still digging out from an unusual mid-April storm that dumped 74.2 millimetres in snow and ice on Hamilton.

The storm caused high winds and power outages. It forced the city to suspend bus service up and down the escarpment for part of the day.

High lake water waves pummeled already damaged trails along Lake Ontario, parts of which were still closed from last year's storm. Waves also damaged the breakwater structure at the west harbour marine, and as a result, some of the docks need to be repaired.

Parts of the city's wastewater treatment plant was bypassed because of the increase in stormwater, which means partially treated sewage and stormwater flowed into the harbour. It also shut down the water treatment plant and ran off the reservoirs because the waves dredged up sediment in the lake.

For some Stoney Creek residents, Pearson said, the problem wasn't flooding, but surging waves. They crashed over and damaged private break walls, which owners will have to repair.

It's not unusual on the lakefront, she said. And it's not cheap for residents.

"A few years ago, we had an ice storm in January that took break walls away for about seven homeowners on Church Street," she said. "It destroyed everything. It was a huge amount of money."

Much of the shoreline damage seemed to be around Windermere Road, Green Road and Church Street, said Scott Peck, director of watershed planning and engineering at the Hamilton Conservation Authority.

Waves damaged the authority's rocky groyne at Fifty Point, he said. But the biggest damage was at Confederation Park, where they eroded the shoreline and washed away part of the trail.

Watercourses are still high, he said, and will be for a while as the snow melts. 

The plight of lakeside residents prompted Pearson to move for the disaster designation, but the program applies to all of Hamilton.

City council still has to ratify the decision on April 25. 


Samantha Craggs is journalist based in Windsor, Ont. She is executive producer of CBC Windsor and previously worked as a reporter and producer in Hamilton, specializing in politics and city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca