Sandy casts uncertainty on Wawa, Ont.’s flood relief plans
Published Monday, October 29, 2012 12:52PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, October 29, 2012 11:08PM EDT
Officials in the northern Ontario town of Wawa are ready to assess the damage caused by recent flooding, but the impending arrival of Hurricane Sandy has cast some uncertainty on their plans.
Forecasters predict Wawa, along with a wide swath of northern Ontario, will experience snow and blustery winds as Hurricane Sandy tracks toward the U.S. Eastern Seaboard.
It's been less than a week since heavy rains washed out roads leading in and out of Wawa. Mayor Linda Nowicki said town officials are keeping an eye on Sandy as they try to recover from last week’s deluge.
“With the approaching Hurricane Sandy, we’re not sure just how badly it’s going to hit this area,” Nowicki said Monday in an interview with CTV Northern Ontario.
She said authorities are considering a full-scale evacuation of the nearby Michipicoten First Nation, a reserve southwest of Wawa that is home to about 700 people.
Michipicoten First Nation was effectively cut off from Wawa last week when floodwaters washed out a main road. Rescue workers spent Saturday evacuating vulnerable community members such as the elderly and those in need of medical attention.
Officials will soon decide whether a full-scale evacuation is necessary, Nowicki said.
In a bulletin issued early Monday morning, Environment Canada noted that “there is still uncertainty in the exact track and intensity of the storm,” making it difficult to predict rain and snowfall amounts.
Chilling winds with gusts to about 60 km/h are expected across a wide swath of northeastern Ontario. The dreary weather is expected to develop overnight and last into Tuesday.
In the meantime, it appears that damage assessment is underway in Wawa.
Ontario’s Community Safety Commissioner Dan Hefkey is poised to take a helicopter ride over Wawa on Monday to see the damaged infrastructure firsthand, Nowicki said.
Wawa declared a state of emergency on Oct. 26 after floodwaters washed out a large section of the TransCanada highway and Highway 17, which leads in and out of town.
The town is slowly becoming more accessible as roadways reopen. Two lanes southbound lanes have opened on Highway 17, and workers are trying to do the same in the northbound lanes.
As well, by end of day Monday, officials hope to open a single emergency access road to Michipicoten.
“Things are running smoothly,” said Nowicki, adding that workers tasked with repairing the town’s infrastructure have been working up to 12 hours a day to help the town recover.
At this point, Nowicki said she is referring to the flooding as a “financial disaster.”
Though officials have yet to calculate how much damage Wawa sustained, Nowicki estimates the total will be in excess of $10 million.
Nowicki said she was in contact with outgoing Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty on Sunday afternoon, who referred her to the province’s Disaster Relief Assistance Program.
With files from CTV Northern Ontario’s Kari Vierimaa