'We can never say thank you enough': Constance Bay looks back on devastating floods

Members of the Constance Bay community came together yesterday to thank volunteers who contributed time, building supplies and support during last year's flooding.

Floodwaters inundated west Ottawa community in 2017

The west Ottawa community of Constance Bay was severely flooded in May 2017. (Ashley Burke/CBC News)

On May 5, 2017, Ottawa recorded 40.4 millimetres of rainfall, smashing the previous record set in 1985.

For residents of Constance Bay, a community in the city's west end, that was bad news.

The neighbourhood, which sits along the Ottawa River, was inundated by flood waters, leading to months of displacement, destruction and financial hardship for many families. 

Nearly one year after the flooding, 200 members of the community came together yesterday to thank the volunteers who contributed their time, building supplies and support during the worst of it.

Floodwater threatens the Lighthouse Grocery and Restaurant in Ottawa's Constance Bay neighbourhood on May 7, 2017. (Laurie Fagan/CBC)

West Carleton-March Coun. Eli El-Chantiry, whose home in the area was also flooded last year, said the volunteer response was awe-inspiring. 

"I'm still amazed at the amount of people who came out and helped us," he said. "We were overwhelmed. We can never say thank you enough."

'This has been a really long year'

Around 380 homes in the community were damaged, and four had to be demolished and rebuilt completely, El-Chantiry said. 

Some of those residents had private insurance that covered their costs, or were able to use Ontario's disaster relief fund, he said.

But for a few families, those financial measures didn't go far enough. 

Karalee Shaw Plourde and her two daughters found themselves in that situation. 

Her home was torn down in November — seven months after the flooding began — when the water buckled the foundation and caused a major mould problem.

But even after tapping into provincial funding and a local relief fund, she found herself nearly $60,000 short of what she needed to rebuild. 

"When you lose a home and find out that insurance doesn't cover it, all you think is bankruptcy," she said.

But thanks to a volunteer organization called Mennonite Disaster Services, it didn't get to that point.

"When Mennonite Disaster Services said they'd like to work with us and the community and do the rebuild, it was just tears of joy instead of tears of sadness," she said.

Karalee Shaw Plourde and her daughters had to move out of their flood-damaged home last summer. (David Rockne Corrigan/CBC)

During an emotional dedication ceremony on Saturday, the family finally got a look at their new home, which they expect they'll be able to move into in June. 

"This has been a really long year, and we couldn't be more grateful for everybody that has helped us," Shaw Plourde said. 

'You don't feel alone'

Members of the Sikh organization Langar for Hunger in Kanata heard about the flooding and gathered a group of around 50 volunteers, bringing pizzas to those sandbagging in the area and then helping clean out residents' flooded basements. 

Tejpreet Singh Dulat said bringing the community together was just one of the reasons the group stepped forward. 

"We are a part of Canadian society. It's one Canada," he said. "Now Constance Bay is our extended family."

Yseult Pierre, who has lived in Constance Bay since 2010, said her basement ended up under inches of water during the flooding.

Yseult Pierre's home suffered damage after flooding struck the west Ottawa community of Constance Bay in 2017. She thanked members of the Sikh organization Langar for Hunger who helped her with the repairs. (CBC)

Volunteers with Langar for Hunger helped clean out her basement, she said.

"They came to the rescue. It was reassuring because, when you're in this situation, it's so overwhelming. [But] when you have this big community coming to help you, you don't feel alone."

Quebec remembers flooding

Gatineau was also hit by devastating flooding last year, and signs of recovery are still evident.

Nearly 100 houses had to be evacuated, and to date, the provincial government has shelled out more than $50 million to victims of the disaster in the Outaouais.

A total of 1,580 compensation cases were opened following the floods.

Rather than returning to damaged homes, many have opted for demolition. Nearly a year later, that process is still underway, said Gatineau Coun. Jean-François Leblanc. 

Flood waters breach the Gatineau River and flood the neighbourhood in Gatineau, Quebec in May, 2017. (Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

In a French-language interview, Leblanc said many damaged homes in the Lac Beauchamp neighbourhood are in the process of being torn down. 

"I think at the end, there will be two or three houses on the street," he told Radio-Canada.

With files from Radio-Canada