It did not come all at once as it did it 2010, but the result of more than 10 centimetres of rain in Yorkton Saturday night and Sunday morning was largely the same for residents.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, people across the city were bailing out basements. Within a few hours of stores opening there was not a hose, pump or shop vac to be found in the city.
By 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, city officials determined it was time to join 15 other communities in southern Saskatchewan and declare a local state of emergency.
“Saturday night I’ve heard four and three quarters to five and a quarter inches of rain overnight, distributed throughout the night, though, not like 2010 when we got seven, eight inches of rain in 40 minutes, but it was spread out through the night so we didn’t get over street flooding but it just charged our system to capacity, especially on the sewer side,” explained Bob Maloney, Yorkton mayor.
“On Sunday morning I got a call from public works and the guys at public works were very concerned about the situation asking whether we should declare a state of emergency,” he continued. “They suggested we were past capacity, we were having sewer backups and they suggested at that time it would be a good idea. I went to public works, had a meeting there and at 11:30 Sunday morning we declared a state of emergency in the city.”
That announcement was accompanied by a request that residents discharge water from sump pumps into alleyways and out onto the street not into the overwhelmed sanitary system. The City also advised residents to avoid using water as much as possible, particularly to put off washing clothes and using dishwashers until the infrastructure was able to catch up.
To help alleviate the situation the City brought in four additional six-inch pumps from Saskatoon.
“Pumping continued throughout the night last night,” Maloney said Monday morning. “It’s a slow process. As you can see our retention ponds are overflowing and a lot of people are concerned about the flooding in those areas, but that’s really what the system is designed to do is to fill up quickly and discharge slowly. We’re going to have to help it discharge because we’re at capacity or over it. The amount of water that’s out there is just incredible.”
It was not enough, however for the mayor to call in outside help.
“I got calls from both the premier and the minister of municipal affairs, Jim Reiter yesterday afternoon asking what our situation was,” Maloney said. “The province has what they call their “hot shot teams” that they can send out to areas, but as you’ve seen in some of the television coverage there are areas that are hit much worse than Yorkton and I wasn’t prepared to ask for that kind of help at this time. I think our residents are dealing with it, unfortunately we’re getting good at it, we’ve had so much of this lately, but 2010 I think taught us a lot of lessons and I would like to think it helped mitigate what happened over the weekend.”
Lessons learned in 2010 helped the hospital avoid a major problem said Krista Boychuk, a communications officer with Sunrise Health Region.
“There is a little bit of water they’re dealing with, but absolutely no services have been affected,” she said.
If this is the new reality our infrastructure system is going to need a big rebuild to keep up with this. I’ve lived in Saskatchewan my whole life, I’ve lived in Yorkton most of it and I have never seen storms like this. It’s incredible. It’s, well, unprecedented really.