FLOODING TAKES HEAVY TOLL
Storm causes major home damage
LaSalle resident Larry Greco was expecting a relaxing weekend at his summer home on Leamington’s Marentette Beach. When he arrived Friday morning he was prepared to bring out the deck furniture and do some spring cleanup. But those plans soon went astray as a storm started brewing over Lake Erie, producing ever-stronger winds and growing waves that began breaching and banging over his breakwall.
“We had waves from anywhere from 10- to 12-feet high,” Greco said, adding the lake water ran overland and into the canal that separates Marentette Beach from the mainland.
There was four feet of water over the roadway at its highest point, closing the only way in and out on four wheels, he said.
“The canal was high, the waves were coming over and the winds were just unbelievable,” Greco said. “And it kept blowing and blowing and the result is it did a lot of shoreline damage and probably we lost two to three homes out here. (They) probably will have to be torn down.
“I stayed here because the water was high. I couldn’t drive out of here.”
Six homes were destroyed on the southern end of Marentette Beach, according to Tim Byrne, director of watershed management for the Essex Region Conservation Authority.
“There may be as many as a dozen homes that are no longer habitable,” Byrne said. “We’ve got municipal infrastructure that was wiped out. We’ve got a section of Cotterie Park Road where the road surface was actually destroyed so it’s inaccessible.
“There is significant damage on homes and properties, significant breakwall damage,” he said. “The amount of damage that we’re looking at here is in the millions. We’re only now just looking at and trying to do damage assessments.” Greco estimated the damage to his property at between $10,000 and $15,000 after his wooden deck was washed away and his roof lost shingles. But he considers himself fortunate compared to some of his neighbours.
He monitored his basement sump pumps, which managed to keep pace with the water that was rushing in. Thankfully, he didn’t lose power during the storm. “If we would have lost power it would have been a lot more devastating,” Greco said. “Today, everybody ’s in shock. The best thing that happened is that nobody was hurt.”
John Jurak, president of the Marentette Beach Association, said owners of the approximately 60 dwellings on the beach were updated on the storm’s progress during the weekend via email and many were out helping each other on Monday morning.
“I’ve had a cottage here for eight years and I’ve never seen it like this,” Jurak said. “There’s about five or six residences that have extreme damage.”
ERCA’s Byrne was also out Monday morning travelling through affected areas as a flood watch for the west coast of Leamington, Point Pelee National Park and Pelee Island was upgraded to a flood warning.
The weekend weather system that led to a flood warning for the east coast of Leamington on Saturday was expected to dissipate, but instead stalled over the area, leading to the new warning, which is in effect until Tuesday morning when a reassessment based on the weather forecast will be made. “The entire region — City of Windsor, County of Essex and Pelee Island — is experiencing now unusual climatic events where our spring weather is hanging on to late-winter temperatures and storm-type events,” Byrne said, adding high lake levels are on the upswing and there is a “high probability of meeting or exceeding 1986 levels, which are all-time record high levels for our area.” Point Pelee National Park was closed to visitors Sunday at noon but reopened Monday. Areas of the park remained off limits due to flooding conditions. “Most of east side of the park, including the Marsh Boardwalk parking lot, all the trails on the east side of the park, the southern last kilometre of the roadway to the tip, are closed because of flood conditions,” spokeswoman Monique Oltrop said.
“At this time we’re thinking that the flood conditions are improving. It was probably at its worst (Sunday) afternoon.” Oltrop said she couldn’t recall such severe flooding in recent memory but said the park should be no worse for wear once the water subsides.
“We assume that after the water recedes we will have to do some repairing of trails but that there will be no long-term damage at this point,” she said.
Larry Greco, vice-president of the Marentette Beach Association, survey the damage done to homes along the eastern shore near Point Pelee after a strong weekend storm. Greco estimates his property received $10,000-to-$15,000 damage.
Randy Stroud tries to clear the drain in front of his Cotterie Park Road home on Monday north of Hillman Marsh.