Igor forced some families from Trouty, but life is rebounding
Ernest and Michelle King stand outside their new home in Goose Cove, Trinity Bay, where they live with Ernest’s mother, Peggy King, 81. The family lost their home in nearby Trouty a year ago in hurricane Igor. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
A Boston Bruins flag is waving in a moderate fall wind outside Ernest King’s house in Goose Cove.
“And your team won the Stanley Cup?” a Telegram reporter asks King, a diehard fan.
“Oh my God,” King exclaimed, spreading his arms wide in his living room in appreciation.
The win by a team that included Bonavista native Michael Ryder was one sign that things have been looking up in the King household, and the family is more settled after hurricane Igor rocked their world on Sept. 21, 2010.
Their home in Trouty was swept away when the brook in front of it became a raging torrent. If it hadn’t landed in a clump of trees and on top of a neighbour’s bridge, it might well have gone out Trinity Bay, following the patio that snapped off with the barbecue tied to it, a preparation King made the night before Igor.
Ernest got his wife, Michelle, and mom, Peggy, to safety, tossed the family dog Blackie out the window and swam through 10 feet of water to their neighbour’s home.
Meanwhile, Peggy knelt on the neighbour’s floor and prayed not to lose another son — her son Johnny died in 1992 after suffering severe burns from a tar fire.
Ernest — who escaped the ’92 fire, a fall from a fish plant roof onto concrete slabs, several tumbles off fishing boats into cod traps and a collision with a moose — evaded Igor, too.
Blackie appeared at the neighbour’s place 20 minutes later.
The patio washed up 21 miles away in Old Perlican, the barbecue still tied on.
“Tied my barbecue down. Forgot to tie the house down,” King told The Telegram last fall.
Trouty, a community of around 60 people, was one of the hardest hit by Igor, which washed out about 100 bridges and roads, cutting off 90 communities, mostly in Trinity Bay, and the Bonavista and Burin peninsulas. One man, Allan Duffett, was swept to his death on Random Island the day of the hurricane.
States of emergency were declared in numerous communities and the army was eventually brought in.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and then premier Danny Williams surveyed the damage by helicopter.
After flying over the Random Island and Trouty areas, Harper told the media, “I've seen flooding before in other parts of Canada, but I’ve never seen damage like this before anywhere in Canada.”
Running the gamut from flooded basements and other repairable damage to totally destroyed homes such as the Kings,’ Igor prompted roughly 2,000 disaster assistance claims from homeowners, small businesses and non-profit organizations in its wakes. Damages, including road infrastructure, topped $100 million.
As Igor’s anniversary approaches, the Kings have settled in Michelle’s father’s old house, celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary where she lived when they started dating — they married in 1986, built their Trouty home in 1987, raised their two sons there and installed new siding and other upgrades in 2008.
After Igor, the Kings borrowed a house in Goose Cove belonging to Michelle’s family, before deciding to tackle her deceased father’s bungalow, which needed a lot of repairs. The Kings bought out Michelle’s brother’s half of the inherited home, a few kilometres from Trouty.
Peggy King’s own home in Trouty was salvageable after the flood, but because of her age — 81 — she has decided to live with her son and daughter-in-law.
“I still misses home. Oh yes, it will take time,” Peggy King said.
In Goose Cove, Peggy has her own sitting room with a view of the water, but the bungalow is on high ground.
“If the water gets me now, a lot of people are in trouble,” said Michelle as she looked out at the view.
Blackie, 12, is yawning this September day in a pet bed, finally content at not shifting houses anymore.
Three homes in Trouty were destroyed by the flood, and all have been razed, changing the landscape of the community, which is entered and exited by hills; the span, washed out by Igor, is repaired, but awaiting paving.
What remained of Ernest and Michelle’s house was the first to go, but they didn’t want to see it.
A friend is hammering and sawing in their Goose Cove kitchen, installing new cupboard. The Kings are waiting on siding and windows, but Ernest did most of the renovation himself.
The couple had to start all over again, acquiring furniture and clothing. They salvaged only a couple of Kings’ paintings, his guitar and a cellphone they dryed out.
Besides Igor compensation, the couple is thankful for all the donations they received, marvelling at the kindness of one friend who drove for hours to drop off clothes because he and his wife wear the same size as the Kings, both slightly built.
Despite the certainty of compensation, the couple spent months stressed where they would wind up.
“January was the toughest month. We were staying over at the other house and didn’t know what our immediate future plans were. I was mentally drained,” Ernest said.
“You wake up in the morning and there was nothing for you to do.”
When the decision was made to take Michelle’s father’s house, Ernest, despite back problems, logged long hours for nearly three months on the renovations — new walls, flooring, plastering — hoping to finish them before he returned to work of the season as a fisheries dockside monitor.
“I wasn’t home until 10 or 11 at night. I wasn’t eating enough. A couple weeks before it was finished, I went back to work. Then I was double shifting,” Ernest recalls.
“We got over that and week by week it gradually got better.”
They moved in April.
Because of his family’s ordeal and the struggle to escape the flood waters, Ernest King has taken to referring to Igor as 9-21, but is quick to stress he’s in no way comparing the storm to the enormity of the tragedy of the 9-11-2001 terrorists attacks.
It’s been tough moving away from the community he lived in since he was six months old due to resettlement of a nearby cove.
“It’s only in Goose Cove a few kilometres away, but it don’t matter. It’s not Trouty,” Ernest said.
“Trouty haven’t got land. I would have had to clear a wooded area and start from scratch. I never had time to do that with an 81-year-old mother.”
Three families who lost homes all had to move out of Trouty.
Vic Ryder and Edwin Miller and their three kids were the last to get settled, finally buying a house in Port Rexton. Their ordeal saw them renting in Trinity, but they were displaced in June because of rental obligations to the Trinity theatre operations.
The family spent eight months living in a 31-foot camper in Miller’s parents’ yard.
“We had a roof over our head,” Ryder said, while wrapping trays at the Trinity Bake Shop.
“But I wanted a house before school started.”
Like the Kings, Ryder picked a property on high ground.
Compensation paid off the mortgage on their destroyed home and gave them a little to start off again in Port Rexton.
“The bank even penalized us for paying the mortgage off,” Ryder said, adding they were dinged about $1,200 for paying off the Trouty house early.
“I figured they would have let it slide because of the situation.”
During Igor, the Trinity Bake Shop — then owned by Hedley and Josephine Johnson — had to shut down for three weeks and flooding and a sewer backup ruined the basement interior of the Johnsons’ adjacent home.
Planning to retire, the couple had struck a deal to sell the bakery to a Port Rexton couple.
But it wasn’t signed and there was an easy out when the hurricane struck.
“We were waiting for the funding, to get word it had gone through,” said Darlene Hiscock, who grew up in Dunfield, near Trinity.
She visited Trouty as soon as the roads were opened up a few days after the storm.
“I told Josephine and Hedley, ‘Don’t worry (the community devastation is) not going to scare me.’ ”
Her husband, Corey, helped Hedley clean up in the wake of the storm.
The Johnsons have done a down-to-the-studs renovation of Hedley’s grandparents’ home, where he grew up, on a hill in Trouty.
“Every time it rains, you can’t sleep. You’re thinking, is this going to be another one? I think everybody is the same way,” said Hedley, when interviewed prior to hurricane Maria’s weekend forecast.
He is unsure if new infrastructure — a large culvert under the washed out road — is adequate to handle another major storm. But still, he marvelled at the work that has come together.
“The amount of money that got spent in some of those small communities,” he said. “I won’t be grumbling about paying taxes anymore.”
Hedley Johnson also said the government left workers in limbo — eight employees lost three weeks’ work while the bakery was shut down due to road washouts. In the wake of the storm, the Johnsons handed out their pies, breads, buns and cakes and the bakery became a food bank as water and supplies were sent to the community.
But Hedley said there was no compensation for the business’s loss of income.
“(Emergency compensation officials) said I wouldn't get covered only if I lost the building,” Hedley said.
“I figured I lost about $34,000. You would think in those extremes there would be some some help.”
Click links below to view photo slideshows from Sept. 21, 2010 and from the days immediately following hurricane Igor: