Freak thunderstorm sparks “100-year” flood in Orangeville

June 29, 2017   ·   0 Comments

SEVERAL AREAS in Orangeville found itself under water on Friday (June 23) as a relentless thunderstorm drenched the community. Above, a municipal truck drives through the water on Town Line to inspect the road’s manhole covers.

By Mike Pickford

In what has been described as a “100-year flood” by Orangeville’s mayor, dozens of local residents have been left reeling after heavy rain on Thursday and Friday of last week left several areas under water.

While rain has not been in short supply in Dufferin County this spring and summer, a powerful thunderstorm ripping through the community last week served as a timely, yet costly reminder of the damage and destruction Mother Nature can cause.

In Orangeville, five streets were closed for long periods Friday as the municipality’s drainage system struggled to keep up with the torrential rain. According to the Weather Network, Orangeville saw 128 millimetres of rain overnight.

“It was just too much for our systems to handle in some places,” Mayor Jeremy Williams told the Citizen. “This is the absolute worst I’ve ever seen it. This was that 100-year flood. It was really, really bad.”

Parts of First Street, Fourth Avenue, Fifth Avenue, Amelia Street and Town Line were cordoned off for much of the day Friday with relatively deep waters settling on the tarmac. The Town’s Director of Public Works, Doug Jones, said this was the worst flooding he’d seen in Orangeville since he moved here almost 15 years ago.

“This was a very bad incident. Certainly, when you think back to other serious floods, such as on May 3, 2012 or August 19, 2005, this was worse. Fourth Avenue in particular is a road we’ve never had to close before for flooding, yet this time we saw water on it,” Mr. Jones said. “Strictly from a damage perspective, it wasn’t that bad. The worst place we were hit was probably our railway tracks across Centre Street, but that’s not a cost the municipality will be responsible for.”

A number of local residents took to social media to post pictures of roads in the region and of their own properties – all soaked in the storm. One video showed an advantageous individual kayaking in the water that had gathered at the bottom end of Town Line.

According to Mayor Williams, Orangeville got off lightly compared to its neighbours, with several other communities across Dufferin County hit even harder by the storm. Much of Grand Valley was under water after the Grand River spilled over its banks early Friday. Dufferin Road 25 was closed off, with several other streets in the municipality shut down. At its peak, the Grand River Conservation Authority reported the river there was raging at a pace of 350 cubic metres per second.

Shelburne was hit hard also, with the municipality’s sewage treatment plant forced into a shutdown after Mayor Ken Bennington confirmed more than 42 inches of water had flooded parts of the facility’s basement.

In Mono, road closures included Mono-Amaranth Townline between County Road 16 and 15 Sideroad, Blind Line between 10 Sideroad and 15 Sideroad and the Third Line EHS between Hockley Road and Dunby Road. Mono Council decided on Tuesday (June 27) that it would carry out damage assessment over the next few weeks, while also reviewing their decisions and procedures throughout the ordeal.

The brunt of the damage though was dealt to private property owners across the region with many left to rue the inclement weather as basements and backyards alike were ruined by rising water levels.

“While this area was hit very hard from a municipal perspective, it has been devastating from a private property perspective,” Mayor Williams said. “Two people who live just across the road from me had their basements completely destroyed from flooding. I think if you were to take a look in many neighbourhoods across Dufferin County, you’re going to see a lot of damage. It’s a terrible, terrible thing.”

Such was the ferocity of the storm and subsequent floods, the mayor added he was simply relieved there were no serious injuries or loss of life reported.

“I think we were very fortunate that nobody was seriously hurt or killed from this. Flooding is no joke, serious weather events are no joke. This was among the worst I’ve ever seen, it was definitely the worst I’ve ever seen here in Orangeville,” Mayor Williams said. “People will be upset over the things they’ve lost, but at least they were material things – things that can be replaced. To come away without any serious injuries is a big relief.”

Possible damage to the railway’s roadbed led to a decision to cancel a scheduled Credit Valley Explorer tour train trip Saturday.

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