Hundreds of Gatineau residents still in hotels, 4 months after floods

Four months after devastating floods struck west Quebec, Gatineau couple Patrick Dawson and Amanda Larabee are facing a fall and winter of uncertainty.

Red Cross support has been 'so amazing,' says flood victim

Amanda Larabee and Patrick Dawson stand outside their flood-damaged home on Rue Glaude in Gatineau on Sept. 3, 2017. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

Four months after historic floods struck west Quebec, Gatineau couple Patrick Dawson and Amanda Larabee are facing a fall and winter of uncertainty.

They're among the dozens of flood victims still relying on the support of the Canadian Red Cross, after this spring's floodwaters spilled into their home on Rue Glaude — rendering it practically unlivable.

"We had a pump running. There was a lot of water outside. I spent until 4 a.m. putting [up] sandbags," Dawson recalled.

"We were confident it wasn't going to get any worse. And then it got worse."

According to the Canadian Red Cross, some 240 Gatineau residents are still being lodged in local hotels. Another 150 or so are receiving food supplies while they stay with friends or relatives.

Stéphane Martel, the co-ordinator of the agency's Gatineau office, told Radio-Canada that number could rise as cold weather approaches and many flooded-out homes remain without power.

Homeowners who've returned home to make repairs might need to leave again, meaning they'll once again need temporary shelter, Martel said.

A military vehicle drives along a flooded street as waters breach the Gatineau River and flood a neighbourhood in Gatineau, Que., Wednesday. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

'So incredibly grateful'

That's what happened to Larabie and Dawson, who tried to return in July but are now back staying in a hotel.

Last week, a contractor told the couple that the house might not survive the winter. Since then, they've been packing what they can so if the house does collapse it doesn't take their personal belongings with it. 

"There's a lot of mold that's starting to grow, because there's always water no matter what. There's too many holes in the foundation," he said. 

"I'm [pretty sure] that by the time it starts freezing that the walls could start collapsing."

Larabie said in the trying months since the floods hit, the Red Cross has been incredibly supportive.

"I am so, so incredibly grateful for the Red Cross. I can't even explain the gratitude that we have towards them. They've been there for us a hundred per cent of the from the beginning," she said.

"And it's not just to help you to pay for your hotel or for your food or anything ... They're there for you psychologically. They have people on site that you can go and talk to if you're having a hard time."

Patrick Dawson shows off some of the damage caused to his home on Rue Glaude by the floods that inundated Gatineau this spring. (CBC)

Facing bankruptcy

More than 1,800 homes in Gatineau were flooded this spring. According to provincial legislation, residents whose homes are located in a 0-to-20-year flood zone and need to be demolished will not be allowed to rebuild.

Dawson said their house is located in a 20-to-100-year flood zone, just metres away from the higher-risk zone, which would have increased the amount of compensation they were eligible for.

While they did get an initial $5,000 from the Quebec government after the flood waters receded, and have been told they could be eligible for a further $135,000. Dawson said it's not even enough to cover their mortgage.

The couple has consulted a bankruptcy expert, but they're hoping it doesn't come to that.

"If we get our answer tomorrow that they would give us enough money, and we don't have to declare bankruptcy — and it's enough to restart our lives somewehere else — we could be gone within a day or two," Dawson said.

"Because we're ready to leave."

With files from Radio-Canada