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Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens talks about flooding in city.

State of emergency declared in Windsor amid severe flooding

Leeanna McLean
Digital Reporter

Friday, September 30, 2016, 4:52 PM - The southwestern Ontario communities of Windsor and Tecumseh were placed under a state of emergency amid severe flooding in the region.

Tecumseh picked up more than 190 mm of rain through Thursday with 91 mm recorded at Windsor Airport. A flood watch and special weather statement remains in effect for all of Essex County.

"Little or no rainfall is likely today [Saturday] with a somewhat increased chance this evening and overnight into Sunday morning, when there is a chance of isolated thunderstorms," says Environment Canada. "Overall, fairly spotty rainfall is now expected, with localized amounts of 15 mm possible from now until Sunday evening."

The stubborn low pressure system is expected to slowly track across southern Ontario on Sunday. However, most of the rain will remain east of the Windsor area, adds EC.

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By the numbers

• Tecumseh received up to 195 mm of rain within 15 hours Wednesday and Thursday, more than twice its entire monthly average of 89 mm.
• The worst-hit parts of Windsor received 156 mm (Forest Glade), 135 mm (Riverside) and 91 mm (Windsor Airport)
• Windsor's 311 service centre line had received 2,400 calls by Friday night, 1,500 of which related to basement flooding. The 311 line was open Saturday morning to handle more calls.
• Windsor plans a special garbage pick up day later in the week for flood-damaged items.
• Provincial inspectors are assessing the damage, and some properties may qualify for disaster relief.

Streets in Windsor were inundated with water with many vehicles stuck and parking lots flooded. All of the storm water retention ponds were at capacity or overflowing, according to mayor Drew Dilkens. Fortunately, no injuries were reported.

"We are trying to deal with the situation the best way we know how," Dilkens told The Weather Network this week. "The problem is, it's beyond the reasonable expectation of the municipality to be able to deal with those things."

City officials are still assessing the extent of the damage as many streets are still flooded. A sinkhole was reported on Lilac Lane between Lauzon Road and Esplanade Drive. Police also responded to a call in neighbouring Tecumseh at the Village of Aspen Lake long term care home after extensive flooding and potential damage was reported. Upon investigation, police ensured residents were safe to remain on the property.

"It really hit the east end of the city the hardest. Our treatment plant at that side of the city has a giant holding tank for bypassing, for surge issues. That holding tank was overflowing on the property," said Dilkens. "This is a real significant event that's not over. All of our systems are working at full capacity and we are still not able to keep up with the volume that we have."

Mayor Dilkens has been communicating with first responders, the mayor of Tecumseh Gary McNamara and federal minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale.

"We have been very coordinated. All feet are on the ground and we are working through all of the issues as they arise."

These types of storms are no longer random events, explained Dilkens. Windsor experienced two flooding episodes in 2011 and one in 2014. The city has worked tirelessly to update its sewer system with many strategies in place including, a downspout disconnection project and backflow valve program that are both offered to residents. However, despite spending millions of dollars, the residents are still reeling from the effects.

"Even our conservation folks here would say there isn't a system available in Canada that could handle this volume of water in that short time period," added Dilkens.

The major issue is, many residents have been denied insurance due to previous basement floods. However, they may be able to access provincial funds through a program called Disaster Recovery Assistance for Ontarians.

The province must first send a team to assess whether the damage from a natural event is serious enough to include the area in the program. An assessment team is expected to arrive in Windsor early next week.

"The goal is to have this area added to the program. Once added, the residents will be able to tap into it. Some additional funding from the province will help offset expenses residents are going to incur. I know how uncomfortable a basement flood is. I've lived through one myself. I know how expensive it is. I understand what people are going through here and that's why we have these programs to help make life better for these folks."

City officials are asking residents to be mindful when using water over the next several days, recommending that showers, laundry washing and other heavy water usage be avoided during the downpour since it burdens the sewer system even more.

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