Nfld. & Labrador

Mud Lake residents, animals safely out, but people don't know what to expect in flooding aftermath

Mud Lake evacuees aren't optimistic about what they'll find when they return home.

People and pets had to be flown out of the Labrador community early Wednesday morning

Dogs had to be rescued via helicopter from Mud Lake, as flooding continued in the Labrador community. (Big Land B&B/Twitter)

Mud Lake evacuees aren't optimistic about what they'll find when they return home.

Joy Williams had to be evacuated, along with her five dogs, to Happy Valley-Goose Bay after her home started flooding early on Wednesday.

I'm afraid our house is probably written off.- Dave Raeburn

She woke in the middle of the night to find water in her home. She spent about an hour getting essentials together, and in that time the water level in her house rose 18 inches.

"My laminate floor was floating and it's now an obstacle course trying to get through your house to get the things you need … and then you go out and get in the boat and it's dark out," she said.

Mud Lake resident Joy Williams says she and her dogs were airlifted out safely, but amid the early morning evacuation, she forgot to bring leashes. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

"I mean, flood waters are fast, so now you're trying to navigate your boat on fast flood water, you can't see anything that might be coming down the river."

In the hurry, Williams forgot the leashes for her dogs — but they are thankfully well behaved pets, and she and all the animals got safely flown out to Happy Valley-Goose Bay, where she's staying on a cot at the SPCA.

Williams was one of the 32 people who had to be evacuated from the central Labrador community because of the flooding on the Churchill River.

She said three sled teams left behind — 33 huskies total — were able to get airlifted out Thursday night.

"One of the choppers they stripped out and I think they got 15 in one load. They were running out of daylight, so … all the dogs got out. That means all the people and all the animals got out."

Three teams of sled dogs were airlifted out of Mud Lake on Wednesday due to flooding. (Big Land B&B/Twitter)

Those dogs are staying on the properties of the owners' friends.

Meanwhile, provincial government officials are still considering the options to deal with flooding relief.

Too soon to assess damages

Fire and Emergency Services and Municipal Affairs Minister Eddie Joyce said he's hoping to get a report back today on options to get the water levels down, including getting explosives to blast away the ice blocking the river's mouth.

As for financial assistance for residents whose homes were damaged, Joyce said it's too soon for him to commit to anything, since officials can't get into the community to assess damages.

An aerial photo shows flooding in one area of Mud Lake near Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Wednesday. (Donald Edmunds)

"Before we look at anything like that, our number 1 priority was safety … and once the waters recede, we will go in and check the damages out, see what's available to the residents," he told CBC's Labrador Morning.

"There's a number of options — insurance, if there's any disaster relief funding … So I can't say yes, every house is gonna be covered. Our priority is to take care of the residents."

Joyce said water levels overnight appeared to hold steady, with possibly a slight decrease, but there was no significant change.

'Didn't have time to do anything'

Dave Raeburn, another one of the Mud Lake evacuees,said water spilled into his house when they opened the back door to leave.

Dave Raeburn says he's fearful his home in Mud Lake is a complete write off. (CBC)

"We just grabbed a small bag and threw in our essentials, medication, that kind of thing," he told CBC's Here & Now.

"Everything else has been left in the house. We didn't have time to do anything."

Residents were taken to the Happy Valley-Goose Bay arena for registration for assistance. Many are staying with family and friends in the community.

'Water came in very fast'

The unusually high water levels are caused by ice jamming at the mouth of the Churchill River, where it flows into Lake Melville.

Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro had to cut off power to Mud Lake just before noon Wednesday, due to safety concerns around flooding equipment.

A rescue helicopter drops people from the Mud Lake area off in Goose Bay on Wednesday after they were evacuated due to flooding. (Twitter/@JTFA_FOIA)

Raeburn said he's never seen the river like this in his 14 years in Mud Lake.

"Up until probably mid-day [Tuesday] it was reasonably normal. We get a rise in water levels this time of the year when the snow starts to melt," he said.

"The water came in very fast indeed. Within hours we were in a totally different situation, very dangerous."

From the photos he's seen of the damage in his community, he figures the house is a complete loss.

"I'm afraid our house is probably written off," he said.

"The water level has continued to rise most of the day, and so I would say our house is pretty well finished … I don't really think it's sunk in yet."

With files from Labrador Morning and Here & Now