Flooding forces Wawa to declare state of emergency

Wawa declared a state of emergency Friday morning following record rainfall.
Parts of Highway 17 were washed out from torrential rains near Wawa. (Martine Laberge/Radio-Canada)

Wawa declared a state of emergency Friday morning following record rainfall.

The mayor of Wawa said that in Wawa proper, an overflowing creek has damaged the basement of the hospital, and some street drains have backed up with debris.

"It was such a heavy downpour that if you were driving down the street you wouldn’t see in front of your vehicle," Linda Nowicki said. "It was raining that heavily."

The mayor noted the big concern was washed out roads surrounding the community and connecting the area.

"There is a portion of Highway 17 at Catfish Creek — it was closed — and then about 10 kilometres south it was closed," she added.

"So we had people who live on a lake there that are cut off. They can’t go north or south. The other concern was outside of Wawa, there are people who live along Lake Superior on what is called the Harbour Road and Long Beach Road. The Harbour Road also leads to Michipicoten First Nation."

Provincial police reported several 911 distress calls were received from residents in the harbour on Lake Superior.  One family was removed via helicopter and OPP have returned to the area to locate a second resident.

Flooding in Wawa after torrential rains closed several roadways around the region. (Twitter)

OPP have advised Highway 101, just east of Wawa, is now open.  They have asked motorists to drive with caution for the first 10 kilometres when leaving Wawa. They also noted that residents on Michipicoten First Nation and Long Beach Road are currently unable to leave those areas due to road erosion in multiple places.

The Wawa Municipal Public Works department has been working to make the road passable for emergency purposes.

Cash needed for repairs

Nowicki noted there had been some discussion about putting a helicopter in place on standby in case someone needs help in an emergency and can't get out by road.

Nowicki said calling a state of emergency in the area is, in part, a cry for cash. She said declaring a state of emergency could give the community access to cash for road and bridge repairs.

Access to homes and businesses was limited in some areas after torrential rains Oct. 25 prompted massive flooding in the region. Highway 17 was affected. (Northern Lights Motel)

"We don't have the funds to repair them," she said.

"At this stage, with the two bridges that failed, we're looking at a $4 to $5 million bill to replace those. And when you add the fact that the other roads that were supposed to be used to get into town are washed out, we will need money to help fix those."

The damage to some roads connecting Wawa and surrounding areas is extensive.

"One road, I'm told, there's a 30 foot crater in it. That's 30 feet deep," she said.

OPP have asked people to remain off the roadways unless absolutely necessary.

Police also reported 911 services in Dubreuilville and Michipicoten First Nation were not available and Bell Canada was working to resolve the problem.

People looking for more information about the state of emergency are asked to call 1-800-367-9292.