Lakeshore residents call for state of emergency after ‘historic’ flooding

Flooding consumes yards in Lighthouse Cove after a storm in June. (Photo submitted by Shelly Jack Copeland)

Flooding in a Lakeshore community on Lake St. Clair has prompted desperate residents to lobby politicians for a state of emergency.

“We can’t handle any more water… The next time we get hit we’re going to be in trouble,” said Mark Fairweather, a resident of Lighthouse Cove. “All we’re asking for is if there are funds available to assist people who don’t have insurance or couldn’t get insurance… after this, I won’t get overland insurance that’s for sure.”

Lighthouse Cove is a small community between Windsor and Chatham with a population of roughly 200 people. Since June, it has experienced disastrous flooding which has left residents constantly moving furniture and looking to municipal and provincial politicians for answers. Fairweather said, in roughly 10 years of living at his residence, he has never seen anything like this.

Water levels have reached historic levels, breaking records set in 1986.

“We just pray a lot that you don’t get strong storms and north winds and northwest winds,” he said. “The water table is so high a lot of people have issues with their septic tanks not working.”

Residents in Lighthouse Cove have even resorted to installing portable toilets on their properties as a way to solve their problems.

Members of the community first noticed a drastic change in levels around the night the Toronto Raptors won the NBA championship, said Fairweather. It was that night a storm surge projected at three feet high breached a break-wall and left some residents with water damage in their homes.

“My wife said ‘we’re in trouble,'” said Fairweather. “We’ve had it come over the wall maybe 15 times that got into the backyard but nothing ever into the houses.”

Some damage caused to houses was irreversible, and even after a stretch of sunshine and warm weather, residents of the small community are still feeling the effects. Fairweather said one of his neighbours had flooding throughout his entire house. In a show of support, Fairweather offered him a place to sleep.

“Some of us are still waiting for stuff to be done,” he said. “We want to be treated fairly, so let’s just be fair and if there are funds for people who need it just step up and help them out.”

On Tuesday, after speaking with numerous government officials – including a call to Chatham-Kent-Leamington MPP Rick Nicholls’ office — Fairweather received a bit of closure as the Town of Lakeshore announced it is on the verge of calling a state of emergency due to high water levels on Lake St. Clair.

Before the announcement, Fairweather said he spoke to Lakeshore councillor Linda McKinley who visited parts of Lighthouse Cove. Although not taking a trip down his street on Island Crescent, Fairweather said McKinley was made aware of the destruction people were facing. McKinley expressed that a state of emergency was a “no-brainer.”

Almost a month later, a state of emergency has not been declared.

If a situation presents itself that poses danger to life or property and affects public infrastructure, including roads, that’s where officials would need to make the statement of starting to deploy resources to residents who need help, said Nelson Cavacas, the director of engineering and infrastructure for the Town of Lakeshore.

“If there’s an area that is significantly impacted where water levels rise during a storm event… we would be deploying resources and emergency personnel and what not,” said Cavacas. “Excessive rainfall is still heading our way throughout the [rest] of the summer and into the fall.”

Despite not being granted the state of emergency, Cavacas said there are plans in place if/when an emergency needs to be declared.

“The town is here and we are prepared in the event conditions,” he said. “We have been providing the sandbag program which is strongly encouraged for residents.”

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