The City of Yorkton was devastated on July 1, 2010 when, what was later termed a ‘one-in-100-year’ rain event dumped inches of water on the city in less than an hour.
The event left many in the city fighting water in home basements and businesses and the cost of damage was in the millions.
Such an event leaves a rather indelible collective memory on the community, but we emerged with a feeling such an event was now behind us.
We did not anticipate massive rain events would become the new norm given few of us could recall a storm of such magnitude in our past.
But as the recent storm to end June and herald in July 2014, has proven, July 1, 2010, was not to be an isolated event.
While not the 45-minute deluge of 2010, four days of steady rains meant a major overall downfall and again we faced sewer back-ups, seepage, and all the resulting damage associated with such an event.
The mass flooding of businesses did not occur this time around, but it was not a flood event isolated to the city either.
Most of the eastern side of Saskatchewan and well into Manitoba were inundated with rain that has caused massive flooding. Roads and bridges, culverts, farm yards, grain crops, all saw damage over a huge area.
The cost to repair the damage will be in the tens of millions of dollars, and likely the hundreds of millions, before everything is back to normal.
But what is now normal?
We increasingly hear about the likelihood of heavy rain events becoming more prevalent as we move forward.
Which leaves us facing the question of what to do?
At present the province’s response to aid in 2010 and again this time, has been to offer assistance for uninsured property damaged in the flooding through the Provincial Disaster Assistance Program (PDAP). It is a reactive program, that while probably not perfect, is a reasonable response to the immediate need, but it is not particularly forward looking.
As an example, a sump pump purchased within two weeks of the disaster maybe eligible, but one purchased for “ongoing usage to mitigate further damage” is not.
Would PDAP, and taxpayers who find PDAP, not be better off covering a pump to prevent damage in the next flood event, rather than covering the damage caused by not having a pump to mitigate the water flooding?
Weeping tiles are similar, covered if they existed prior to the flood, but not if they were to be installed during flood repairs to aid preventing another disaster. Again would a PDAP investment in weeping tiles now be a wise investment?
If heavy rains are to be the new norm, then we need programs which prepare to deal with those events and protect property from damage as a compliment to funds available for disaster relief.