Montreal·Point of View

My retirement dream home is under water. Where do I go from here?

My house is under water. Yet, the first thought that comes to mind when I see it is, "This kind of stuff happens to other people." Now it's truly my reality — not someone else's bad news.

After years of renos, and just painting left to do, Florian Gaudreau's home in Harrington, Que., is ruined

​​​​​​​Florian Gaudreau spent his weekends over the last several years renovating his retirement home near Arundel, Que. Now, it's under water. (Submitted by Florian Gaudreau)

My house is under water. Yet, the first thought that comes to mind when I see it is, "This kind of stuff happens to other people."

Now it's truly my reality — not someone else's bad news.

The flood events happened so fast there was nothing to prepare me for the harshness of this situation.

I went out Saturday night to go dancing in Morin Heights. As I left, the water on the road was up to my tires, which is normal for this time of year. When I came home around midnight, there was no road left. I had to hike onto my property.

The first thing I did was check my basement; there was no water, so I set the alarm for 6 a.m. so that I could remove my water pump. But it was too late — by 6 a.m. the basement was flooded.

From there on in, it was a scramble to remove tools from my shed and move my summer car to high ground. In a very short time, the car and shed were both under water.

Florian Gaudreau tried to save his belongings, but many, including his car, are now lost. (Submitted by Florian Gaudreau)

I was able to get my chemical toilet from the shed and potable water from a neighbour, which enabled me to stay in the house for another day or so.

An anxiety-filled night, full of endless possibilities and disheartening thoughts, diminished my hope of ever being able to save everything I own. This beach house is my retirement dream, a wildlife observatory located in one of the most beautiful valleys of the Rouge River.

Florian Gaudreau fell in love with the Rouge River and became a rafting guide. He planned to move to the area when he retired. (Submitted by Florian Gaudreau)

I discovered the Rouge River more than 35 years ago, when I went rafting with a group of friends in early spring and got thrown overboard by a huge wave. It was like being hit by a bolt of adrenaline and, right there and then, I was hooked on whitewater. I became a rafting guide for New World River Expeditions.

In 2011, I was looking for a place to have a beach party and found the house that became my home. I decided that would be the home where I would retire, which I did last year.

Behind the house is a grassy lane way that leads to a few summer cottages. Beyond that are rolling hills that make this valley so majestic. Deer often graze there in the spring and cows in the summer. This place is what memories are made of.

I worked hard on renovating this small house. I gave it grandeur by opening the ceiling to a height of more than four metres and adding a skylight to bring in the sun.

Cows can often be seen grazing in the grassy hills near Florian Gaudreau's home. 'This place is what memories are made of,' he says. (Submitted by Florian Gaudreau)

All my weekends and vacations were spent preparing the house for my retirement. I was at the last coat of plaster ready for painting, so to say this is a heartbreaking event is an understatement. The question is, where do I go from here?

There is no shortage of news about the flooding in Quebec and the government willingness to help or buy people out. There is very little information about the accessibility to government help, nor did I find any information as to the percentage the government is willing to pay to remove the house.

All I was offered was a chance to live in the arena in Lachute — I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do with my truckload of belongings.

I've come to Montreal to board in a rooming house for the week. Monday, I start a job near Harrington. I guess I'll be staying in the Lachute arena till I find something else.

I struggled to save what I could in the house: family photo albums, high school yearbooks, my daughter's wedding pictures, my wood carvings. All have little monetary value, but are cherished items just the same.

The part that is frustrating to me are the comments from people saying I shouldn't be living near the river. A simple comment for a complicated issue: these are unusual times, fearful times, as I'm sure we haven't seen the worst of it yet.

'I'm at a loss as to what to do or where I'm going from here,' says Florian Gaudreau. (Submitted by Florian Gaudreau)

This house has been here since the early 40s; it's never flooded like this. A few years ago, a tornado tore up 15 trees on my neighbour's property at the top of the valley. Should she be blamed for living higher up on the valley?

2019 has been a difficult year, as my mother died Jan. 15, and I'm still dealing with problems related to her estate. I'm at a loss as to what to do or where I'm going from here.

I can honestly say that I am so touched by the outpouring of support and encouraging words I got from friends and neighbours — it's what keeps me going and focused on being solution-oriented. It's what's in my heart that can never be washed away.

About the Author

Florian Gaudreau

Quebec 2019 flood victim

Florian Gaudreau, 65, is retired and has spent the last several years renovating his dream home in Harrington, Que., in the Laurentians. That home got flooded last week.

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