Ottawa-Gatineau residents see devastation as flood water recedes, focus on work ahead

Families affected by the flood are beginning to return home in the Ottawa-Gatineau area to get a sense of how much damage was done and how much work lies ahead.

'Knowing it's never going to be the same again, it's difficult'

Geneviève Landry and her husband had completely remodelled their home on Leo Lane in Ottawa's Cumberland neighbourhood. (Roger Dubois/CBC)

As the flood waters in the Ottawa and Gatineau area recede, families are getting their first glimpses of the damage to their properties and what it will take to fix.

Geneviève Landry said Tuesday that a few of her neighbours on Leo Lane in Cumberland have come to assess the situation after being told to leave. She shared her experience in a video posted on social media.

She was shocked and heartbroken, she said, despite having seen a video taken by her husband, Christopher Blenkiron.

"What's home and familiar being devastated, being demolished. Something that's unrecognizable — wet, dirty, humid, broken," Landry said.

In her video, Landry wades through about half a metre of water on her main floor. Firewood, workout equipment and a dog bowl can be seen floating in the murky water.

The crawlspace filled with water after they were told to leave their home. After days of sandbagging to fight back the rising Ottawa River, Blenkiron said he was exhausted and disappointed when he found out the house had been lost.

Landry went back into her home on Leo Lane in Cumberland for the first time on Monday. (CBC)

Landry and Blenkiron bought the bungalow, which features a loft, in 2013. They both described gutting the house and rebuilding everything from the kitchen to the washrooms and laundry room.

"This was our dream house on the water," Blenkiron said.

'We're at the mercy of the river'

A house that was a labour of love now needs to be stripped apart and rebuilt, Blenkiron said. He'll miss the custom-built kitchen he spent "too much" on, where his family would gather.

"Reliving different memories in different areas, knowing it's just never going to be the same again, it's difficult," he said.

Several possessions that won't be covered by insurance have been lost to the flood — including their lawnmower, snowmobiles and other sports equipment, Landry said. 

"We're at the mercy of the river, really," she said. "[However] long is it going to take for the river to recede is going to be dictating how fast we can start the demolition and drying the house."

"Everything's filled with this brown, foul-smelling water. Even when the water recedes, not only is mould going to be an issue, we're probably dealing with some of the neighbour's septic stuff," Blenkiron said.

"It's going to be just a disaster. There's going to be a bio-hazard element to it." 

He's been washing his hands constantly and trying to avoid touching his eyes as he sorts through what can be saved. They'll have to hire specialized contractors who can handle treating water-damaged material, he said.

He estimates the damage at upward of $300,000, considering the damaged sports equipment and the tools he used in his construction work.

The couple said they hope promises of disaster assistance funding will come through, and they're grateful for all the help they've received from volunteers.