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NICHOLAS MERCER: One year beyond the January flooding

The west coast of Newfoundland saw flooding and destruction after a mid-January thaw in 2018.
The west coast of Newfoundland saw flooding and destruction after a mid-January thaw in 2018. - Star file photo

The shrill of a cellular phone broke the morning silence nearly a year ago.

It was my boss and it was just after 9:30 a.m.

I don't work weekends and I thought it was weird he was calling me on a Saturday morning.

There had been intense flooding in the region overnight and there were many places dealing with the aftermath.

Areas of Corner Brook were dealing with heavy water, a portion of the Trans-Canada Highway near Little Rapids had been washed away and residents at the far end of the south shore of the Bay of Islands were cut off from the upper part due to a washout.

It seemed like every corner of the region was reeling from a January thaw that led to an unrivaled amount of snow melt.

It was my assignment to head out and grab video of what the region was experiencing. That meant making — multiple — attempts to attach a camera to my car somewhere, rig up a microphone and give people a look at what was going on across the region.

It wasn't an easy task. After some quick brainstorming, I duct taped a Panasonic camera to the dash of my car, then did the same with my recorder and headed out.

As an aside, the duct tape really didn't work. Braking would cause the camera to fall backwards despite the tape. I guess it can fight everything except inertia.

That meant a quick trip to Walmart and the acquisition of a camera mount that was just a big enough fit for the camera.

After that interlude, I was off to the races, so to speak.

I hadn't seen an exertion of force from Mother Nature like what met me on the road in a long time.

It probably hadn't happened since the blackout in 1993.

I can't put Hurricane Igor on that list because I was going to school in Halifax at the time.

Water flowed across highways, streams and rivers roared with extra fury at the increase in volume they were experienced, and pieces of land laid strewn across roads.

The thaw and subsequent increase in water had cut a huge swath through the area from Trout River to Lark Harbour and everywhere in between.

Stephenville and the Bay St. George area didn't escape, as they also dealt with flooding.

I hesitate to call it destruction, but that is what it was.

My ride was a relatively easy one. It wasn't one spent traversing through water and slush.

When I hit the highway, emergency crews were well on their way to helping with the cleanup and repair.

Still, it would be days before things returned to relative normal.

It was only a week from the highly anticipated Hockey Day festivities and there was some doubt creeping in about the event.

Not that it would be cancelled, mind you, but perhaps a little less dapper than people would have liked.

People like the late Craig Kennedy made sure things got back on track and Hockey Day was a huge success.

I spent that day worrying about my own home.

Was I going to return to find a couple of feet of water in the basement apartment I was renting?

Was I going to lose anything to this weather incident?

Luckily, the answer to those questions were no, but they still played on my mind in the couple of hours I was patrolling the region.

My evening finished with the city declaring a state of emergency amid flood damage and concerns for the height of the Corner Brook stream.

Something stuck with me from that day.

I was struck by a person's ability to face down adversity. When pressed, there isn't much people can't overcome.

Some went about the days like they normally would. They were the ones who weren't affected.

The ones who were directly affected by all of this chipped into help where they could.

I think that is what I take most from the experience. Just people standing up when confronted with a dire situation.

They didn't buckle under the pressure. As cliche as it sounds, they rolled with the situation in front of them and did the best they could to overcome it.

Hopefully, they won't have to stand up again for a long time.

Nicholas Mercer is the online editor with The Western Star. He lives in Corner Brook and can be reached at nicholas.mercer@thewesternstar.com.

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