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$100M in damage caused in Fort McMurray flood, mayor estimates
EDMONTON -- Fort McMurray is again in recovery and rebuild mode, flooded exactly four years after a wildfire tore through the northern Alberta city.
One final evacuation order, for Garden Lane of the Draper area, was lifted at 6 p.m. on Sunday and municipal authorities have started guiding residents through the process of checking in on their homes and businesses.
Cora Dion is among those who are coming back to irreparable loss.
"The basement was under like five feet of water,"she recalled.
"I stored everything down there as far as memories, so all my kids’baby pictures and stuff like that."
Volunteer Jay Woolner is back to his day job driving a garbage truck now that the city’s food bank is running again.
"I drive down the streets and I see the devastation down here, and it’s – it’s overwhelming," he described.
- READ MORE: Fort McMurray residents cleaning up after flooding 4 years to the day after devastating fire
Some of the buildings to which 13,000 evacuated residents are returning are without utility service, and may be compromised or have internal structural damage, the municipality has warned.
On Monday, Wood Buffalo Mayor Don Scott, for the first time, put a number to the devastation.
"I would guess just based off what I’ve seen that I believe there’s over $100 million in damages in this region, easily," Scott told media.
He said he would like to see the Alberta government make a comparable contribution to Fort McMurray’s rebuild efforts as it did in 2013 after High River flooded.
While Premier Jason Kenney has called it likely that the municipality will qualify for dollars through the provincial Disaster Recovering Program, no commitment has been made.
"Details of any potential Disaster Recovery Program would have to be voted on by Cabinet before they could be made public, but the government recognizes the urgent need for relief," a statement from Timothy Gerwing, press secretary for Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu, read. "Stay tuned."
“Just given how much this region has given to Alberta and to Canada, I would be surprised if this region does not qualify for a significant DRP program," Scott said.
“I would hope that the provincial and federal governments would be coming to our aid in a significant way.”
BOIL WATER ADVISORIES COULD LAST UNTIL SEPTEMBER: OFFICIALS
A boil water advisory that remains in place for all neighbourhoods in Fort McMurray, Anzac, Draper, Greoire Lake Estates and Saprae Creek Estates could last five months, officials revealed Monday.
Alberta Health Services will not lift the advisory until the water treatment plant and 375-kilometre-long potable water distribution system is flushed, disinfected and tested.
Matthew Hough, deputy chief administration officer, said high river levels entered an overflow pipe and mixed with the drinking water supply.
“If I can use an analogy, the river water has created a film-like substance on the inside of our pipes, just you would need to clean a glass with milk that may have been left a little too long,” he explained.
The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo says a plan to do this is pending government approval. Crews have already started flushing the plant; once given the go-ahead, they would then temporarily install flushing equipment on fire hydrants in residential neighbourhoods and flush them for 10 to 12 hours each day.
The plant’s flushing will take 10 days. The three residential flushing phases are expected to each take 30 days, although Hough would like to see them done simultaneously. A final flushing of the entire system would take 20 days. As the work is completed, advisories could be lifted incrementally.
In the meantime, the hospital in Fort McMurray which was not breached by flood water but is located in the lower townsite, is receiving potable water from the Civeo plant north of Fort McMurray.
Hough said Civeo can only supply a limited number of users, including workcamps in the area, and that most houses do not have the same infrastructure as the hospital to receive supply.
The municipality anticipates being able to start the second phase of the cleaning process May 8.
Residents who are unable to boil water because their utilities are not yet back in service can pick up bottled water from the staging area at Macdonald Avenue and Morrison Street with ID that includes an address in a flood-affected area, or Red Cross registration.
On Monday, curbside waste collection and street sweeping also started, and the planning and development opened. Residents are asked to first use the online portal for things like building permits, property reports, and title and flood recovery information packages to respect COVID-19-related public health orders.
The evacuation alert for several communities in the downtown and lower townsite areas of Fort McMurray was issued April 26, and lead to a second state of local emergency on top of one issued for the COVID-19 pandemic.
The cause of the flooding was an ice jam on the Athabasca River, once more than 20 kilometres in length.
- READ MORE: This is how ice buildup led to severe flooding in Fort McMurray
- READ MORE: Northern Alta. flood evacuees to receive emergency cash payment
- READ MORE: Evacuation orders lifted in Mackenzie County
Evacuees in Wood Buffalo as well as Mackenzie County, where another ice jam more than 40 kilometres in length on the Peace River caused flooding in the Fort Vermilion area, are eligible for emergency payments from the Alberta government.
Forecasters are not predicting any more jams to cause flooding in Fort McMurray.