Residents reeling from 'unprecedented' flooding on Newfoundland's west coast
'I've never seen flooding like this,' says area MHA and Municipal Affairs Minister Eddie Joyce
People in communities on Newfoundland's west coast are reeling Saturday as heavy rainfall and snowmelt from sudden warmer temperatures caused flooding and washed out roads, and states of emergencies being declared.
Residents quickly set to work trying to clear debris from the highways and help the pent-up water move.
"I came here, this was flooded, and you see all the local people here chipping in, all the guys chipping in to cut the holes through the side of the road there," Eddie Joyce, Humber-Bay of Islands MHA and Municipal Affairs and Environment Minister, told CBC News as vehicles waded through water on the main road in Halfway Point Saturday.
"The flooding is unprecedented here in this area," said Joyce. "I've never seen flooding like this here in this whole area."
Not far from the highway, Joyce checked in on the Jessos, who had to evacuate their home early that morning after the water levels started rising.
"Mrs. Jesso is very bad, she's a bit upset. I was just talking to both of them and of course they're devastated," he said, adding that they're resilient and have a lot of community support.
'It was real close'
The Jessos weren't the only residents worried about losing their home Saturday.
"Thank god for everyone that came to help us this morning because it was a bad state," Donna Wheeler told CBC News.
"It was real close."
Wheeler was outside her daughter Carla's house, where 15 to 20 people showed up to help.
"The brook broke free up in the back, whatever happened, and it came down directly hitting the left hand corner of her house," she said.
"And it was circling all sides of her house, it was coming down. We were really afraid that we were going to lose the house in the water that came down."
They managed to redirect the brook with tractors and by cutting down trees in the back, so the water flowed down both sides of the home — with her daughter's dog and two cats tucked up safe inside.
Safety of everyone top priority
Joyce said the main priority Saturday was making sure people are safe.
"As you can see going by all kinds of equipment from all different contractors throughout this region," he said.
With flooding and trees on roads and overflowing ditches and brooks, Joyce said the important thing is to "help people wherever we can."
Thank you to all of the contractors and crew for the incredible hard work today! <a href="https://twitter.com/TW_GovNL?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TW_GovNL</a> <a href="https://t.co/VohjcHCRR4">pic.twitter.com/VohjcHCRR4</a>—@PremierofNL
In a press release issued 6:10 p.m. the provincial government advised its officials, engineers and contractors are on site throughout the region "assessing damage, making repairs and determining alternate routes where necessary."
The medical communications centre of the Western Memorial Regional Hospital has been activated, with government air services on standby if medical transport is needed.
As Environment Canada forecast the weather system would continue throughout the weekend, and below freezing temperatures expected overnight Saturday, the government has advised all residents to take safety precautions.
With files from Gary Moore and Colleen Connors