New Brunswick·Video

Why a flood victim recorded her house being slowly destroyed

For Dawn Burke, "going viral" was a welcome distraction from losing her Mill Cove home and all of her belongings in the New Brunswick flood.

Dawn Burke’s videos of floodwaters creeping in and crashing into her home have ‘gone viral’

Dawn Burke said she recorded what the flood has done to her house to keep her family updated, but once she saw how much attention she was getting, she also wanted to draw attention to what rural New Brunswickers are going through.

For Dawn Burke, "going viral" was a welcome distraction from losing her Mill Cove home and all of her belongings in the New Brunswick flood.

But it was not why she chose to record the floodwaters creeping up on the grass around her home, filling her basement and finally crashing through the windows and doors.

New Brunswick flood destroys home

4 years ago
Duration 1:32
As floodwaters crashed into her home, Mill Cove resident Dawn Burke recorded the damage in a video that's gone viral.

"It was just for us," said Burke, who lives about 60 kilometres east of Fredericton. "It was really just to let family know what is going on."

The interviews with regional and national media organizations that followed, however, were a way to help people appreciate the damage and upheaval the flooding has caused in rural New Brunswick, she said.

"We're in a devastating situation right now, and we need people to be aware of that."

The water is going down in Fredericton. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Burke began posting her videos on Facebook when she saw her basement was filling up with water last week. One video had 230,000 views in a few days, and another reached 275,000.

"We heard from people in Australia, Scotland, Haiti, sending prayers and good thoughts to us," she said.

Flooding began 10 days ago along the lower St. John River and the rivers and lakes connected to it, including Grand Lake, where Burke lives. 

In some places, the water reached two metres above flood stage.

As of Tuesday, 1,378 people from 587 households have registered with the Red Cross, and many, like Burke, had to get out of their homes.

But the actual number could be between 2,000 to 3,000 people, said Greg MacCallum, the director of the provincial Emergency Measures Organization.

Residents check on their houses surrounded by St. John River floodwaters earlier this week. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Burke and her six children, husband and three dogs have been staying with kind strangers, who offered up their home in White's Cove, about five kilometres up the road from Mill Cove.

"We're camping," she said, laughing.

But she's been going back every day, recording videos, snapping photos and taking in the damage.

"We went in Saturday morning and we had a steel door that was bent and the jam was broken," she said. "And so every wave that came in was bringing water into our house and taking out furniture.

"When we went in on Sunday and the water was quieter, our wrap-around deck was gone. Our sun room had sunken two feet and we had about 6 [inches] of water on our entire main level."

People have used boats to get to their homes, although the province warns that debris in the water is dangerous. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Burke said she's trying to keep a positive attitude, but every now and then she and her family are reminded of the losses  the floods have caused.

"There were tears from one of our daughters, who's just overwhelmed with the reality that we're not going home soon," she said. "But I just reassured her that we're going to be OK."

On Wednesday, water finally began receding, but EMO said cleanup may take longer than people expect.

Burke said she won't know what will happen at her house until the water has fully receded.

Meanwhile, she and her family will live in a furnished home until around November. New friends offered it to her and she wrote in a Facebook post Monday that the home is big enough to meet all her family's needs.

"Very hard to find a home big enough for our family, and yet our needs have been met!

"We don't know yet if we'll be rebuilding or moving we just don't know at this point but we'll certainly be updating and keep it going. People are invested. They care."

With files from Maria Jose Burgos