Flooding prompts evacuations in Yorkton, Sask.
Mark Lints rows down Agricultural Street following a torrential downpour that caused flooding in Yorkton, Saskatchewan on Friday, July 2, 2010. (Mark Taylor / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
The Canadian Press
Published Friday, July 2, 2010 9:46PM EDT
YORKTON, Sask. - Edralyn Lints's backyard was a labour of love built with her husband for their three-year-old son, but now it's "a muddy swimming pool" after a massive storm caused a flash flood to sweep through.
The situation is even worse inside her home, where water has filled the basement and swamped the main floor.
"It's stinky," said Lints. "All my son's toys are floating. It's all drenched in water. All the floors are totalled."
A massive storm hit the Yorkton area late Thursday afternoon, flooding five blocks of homes and apartments in the low-lying city core.
The flood turned streets to rivers and sent people fleeing for higher ground, in some cases by canoe or in the bucket of a front-end loader.
Lints said rising water in the backyard is what prompted her family to flee.
"It was already at my waistline when we actually moved out of the house," Lints said Friday as she stood down the street from her home, which was surrounded by water like an island.
Her husband, Mark Lints, said they've lost clothes, a drum set, and likely their furnace and water heater in the flood.
But he is happy that his family is safe.
"Our basement wasn't finished so it wasn't as big a loss as some others. It's still kind of disheartening, but things can be replaced," he said.
The bad weather news continued Friday as more storms hit a wide swath of the province, producing heavy rains, large hail and damaging winds.
Environment Canada confirmed that small tornadoes had touched down near Wynard, Sask., during the afternoon.
"We've had numerous reports of quarter-sized, loonie-sized and golfball-sized hail to the south and southeast of Swift Current," said Bill McMurtry of Environment Canada.
A tornado warning was in effect for areas north and east of Saskatoon while Regina was under a tornado watch.
In Yorkton, many downtown streets remained under water on Friday morning.
"It was unbelievable. I've never seen anything like it," said Michael Pasloski of the Red Cross. "Most of the people that we've evacuated, they've lost everything. The water came above the basement level. It filled the basement and was coming on the main floor.
"These people were evacuated by canoes from their homes. That gives you an idea of the amount of water that came in such a short period of time."
A state of local emergency was declaired in the city, population 17,000.
As of Friday afternoon, Mayor James Wilson said 130 people forced from their homes had reported to an evacuation centre. He feared that the number of people impacted was much higher though, because many were away on a long Canada Day weekend when the storm struck.
The city has flooded before after heavy rains, Wilson said. But this time, the water had nowhere to go because of all the wet weather the region has been experiencing.
"We are in dire straits today. As we speak, people can not move back into their homes," he said. "We have several people calling in today to city hall in various areas saying, 'Help, what do I do?"'
The storm also flooded cars, toppled trees, and knocked out power, but the hospital and nursing home were not flooded and neither was the town's water treatment plant.
Residents of one flooded apartment building needed to be rescued in the scoop of a front-end loader, Wilson said.
Dean Clark, fire chief in Yorkton, said early reports indicated some homes were so extensively flooded the basements were washed out and the homes may not be fixable.
"When we get the water dealt with we'll be able to assess that," said Clark, who said the damage was freakishly intense given that Yorkton isn't near large water bodies and doesn't have a river running through it.
"It's the first time I've seen rain come straight across," he said.
Homes in other low lying areas throughout the city were flooded, but not as significantly as downtown.
Yorkton is not the only area on the Prairies to feel nature's wrath. Earlier this week, heavy rains delivered 80 millimetres of rain to parts of Saskatoon, flooding basements and knocking down trees and power lines.
In southeastern Alberta, flash flooding last month at Irvine, near Medicine Hat, forced dozens from their homes and stranded others. Some had to be rescued by boats or a helicopter. The same system washed out a section of the Trans-Canada Highway near Maple Creek, Sask.
Premier Brad Wall announced Friday that a cabinet committee has been formed to co-ordinate the province's response to "unprecedented flooding faced by Saskatchewan people."
"The heavy rains have caused widespread havoc -- and needs of Saskatchewan people must be addressed as quickly as possible," he said.
The premier toured the flood zone in Yorkton, calling it "shocking."
"If folks could see the street we're on now, they'll know that most of this block is under water. These basements don't have a couple of inches in them, they're full to the rafters, some of the water's on the main floors already," said Wall.
"It's unbelievable that much rain could fall in that short a span on a part of the province that's already saturated. All of Saskatchewan's like a big sponge that's full right now, there's no place for water to go."