Flood-ravaged Leamington deemed not a disaster by province

The waves that pounded the Lake Erie shoreline in Leamington in April left a mess and ruined a number of homes, but it's not officially a disaster.

Residents unable to apply for Disaster Relief for Ontarians program

The province has not given approval to activate the Disaster Relief for Ontarians program in Leamington after flooding ravaged the area in April. (Jason Viau/CBC)

The waves that pounded the Lake Erie shoreline in Leamington in April left a mess and ruined a number of homes, but it's not officially a disaster.

That decision came down late Thursday from Ontario's Ministry of Municipal Affairs.

"They aren't seeing enough damage to the principal residences that this disaster recovery agreement covers, and I think that's probably the biggest catch," said Mayor John Paterson, explaining that many of the shoreline properties are secondary homes or cottages.

"They have never been covered under that [program] nor are breakwalls and all the landscaping and stuff that has been washed away."

The municipality and residents there will not be able to use the province's Disaster Relief for Ontarians program, meant to cover emergency expenses and the costs of repairing or replacing essential items after a natural disaster.

That program must be activated by the Minister of Municipal Affairs, but it was not. 

Officials from the province evaluated a 10 km stretch of shoreline and about 300 structures after the weather event. The bulk of the damage happened from Wheatley Harbour all the way to Point Pelee National Park.

Jerry Westfall's home along the shoreline in Leamington was severely damaged by the storm on Sunday, April 15, 2018. High winds and strong waves broke his breakwall. A tree uprooted and landed on his house. (Jason Viau/CBC)

At that time, the mayor said about six to eight structures had been deemed uninhabitable. 

Paterson said the town will have to pay for road repairs from its own budget as well. He's still awaiting word from staff on how many structures will have to be demolished. 

Tim Byrne, director of watershed management for the Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA), described the damage as the most extensive seen since the 1970s. 

He said roads were washed out, cars were marooned, and properties were surrounded by water. 

Tim Byrne from ERCA says residents in Leamington dealt with "significant damage" from flooding. (Melissa Nakhavoly/Twitter)


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