Bridge to trouble

Mallory
Mallory Clarkson
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Hickman’s Harbour resident says new structure made flooding worse

“They didn’t put in a bridge, they put in a dam,” said Ralph Blundell of a bridge built across Mill Pond, Hickman’s Harbour, a couple of years ago. Blundell says if the bridge had been built wider, flooding in the area during hurricane Igor wouldn’t have been as bad. — Photo by Mallory Clarkson/The Packet

Hurricane Igor may have come and gone, but what was left behind can’t be fixed or forgotten.

So many stories have been told, but new ones surface all the time. All stories are similar, but not one is the same.

Ralph Blundell lost everything.

He has lived in Hickman’s Harbour for 76 years. The house he once called home, he lived in for more than 50 years.

“I lost everything I owned in the water,” he said. “Now it’s all down the drain.”

Blundell was hesitant at first to talk about what happened. He said the story is “disgusting.”

He was sitting down to dinner with his wife, Maude, on the day Igor reared its ugly head. He got up from the kitchen table to check the house for water damage and saw water running through his living room. By the time the storm hit Random Island full force, the water was up to Blundell’s windows — more than four feet off the ground.

The water was high enough that Blundell and his neighbours had to use a small boat to get around.

Blundell was hesitant at first to show The Packet his post-Igor home.

With the exception of the spot of dead grass in front of his front door, Blundell’s house looks untouched.

The new siding and windows Blundell installed before the storm held up against the wind and rain.

A patio once stood where the dead grass is. Blundell hasn’t seen his deck since the storm washed it away. He thinks it’s somewhere across the bay.

A draft of cool, damp air gusts from his home as Blundell opens the door.

He doesn’t worry about taking off his shoes as he walks around the house. The linoleum floors didn’t dry quite right and are buckling in places and the carpets are still a little soggy in places.

The air smells musty and dank. It’s enough to send a chill down your spine as he goes from room to room, describing what his home used to look like.

His home is barren now, except for a couple pieces of furniture and his grandmother’s old Bible, which he has laid out on a table to dry. Pages from the well-used Bible have detached from the spine of the book and the loose pages are heaped between the worn covers.

“I have nowhere to go.” Ralph Blundell

Mold is growing on his entertainment unit and condensation has formed in his once-new windows.

Insurance won’t cover the damage and Ralph is tired of waiting for government funds. It’s been two months since the storm and Blundell and his wife haven’t seen a penny from the government either.

“I’ve spent 16 years paying insurance,” he said. “Now I won’t get a penny.”

It’s complicated

Blundell won’t be able to rebuild on this plot of land, which was once his father’s.

It’s now considered a flood zone.

He’s not sure what he’s going to do.

There’s no land for sale in the area Blundell has called home his entire life.

Since the storm, he has been living at his stepdaughter’s house down the road. But, it’s just not the same.

“I have nowhere to go,” he sighes, looking at the home he can’t return to.

He jokes that he’s tempted to move into his shed, which is a stone’s throw behind his house.

Blundell says the flooding should never have happened.

A couple years ago, the government replaced a wooden bridge over Mill Pond in Hickman’s Harbour, with a half-culvert, concrete bridge.

“They didn’t put in a bridge, they put in a dam,” Blundell said, gesturing at the structure just down the river from his property.

Water gushed down the normally calm waterway and was stopped at the bridge. He told the contractors the bridge wasn’t big enough when it was built two years ago. It should have been built at least two metres wider, he says.

Minister of Transportation and Works, Tom Hedderson, couldn’t be reached for comment before deadline.

“If that bridge was put right ...” Blundell said, his voice trailing off. “It should have never happened.”

The Packet

Geographic location: Hickman, Random Island, Post-Igor Mill Pond

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  • Carol Ann Rogers
    November 20, 2010 - 08:06

    Why will insurance not compensate the family? What is the point of insurance? If he had saved the monthly payments instead of giving it to an insurance company who simply took it and invested it into their buisness, he'd have an emergency fund sitting in his own name in a bank account earning interest for him waiting for that rainy day. It would make young people not believe in bothering with insurance.