'The water won't get to us this time'

Barb Sweet
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At 7 a.m. on a recent fine day, Ivy and Angus Brushett tackled their driveway with four buckets of asphalt sealer.

By noon it was glistening black, setting off their brand new bungalow high on a hill overlooking St. Bernard’s-Jacques Fontaine on the Burin Peninsula, about a two-hour drive from St. John’s.

The driveway was left over from the home they rented, then bought and tore down after their homestead of more than 50 years was wiped out by hurricane Igor on Sept. 21, 2010.

“The water won’t get us this time,” Angus said.

Igor stranded 90 communities as roads and bridges crumbled. Although there were damages around St. John’s and elsewhere on the Avalon Peninsula, the hardest hit places were Trinity Bay and the Bonavista and Burin peninsulas.

Rainfall from Igor was reported to range from a low of 41 millimetres in Burgeo to a high of 238 mm in St. Lawrence. Winds were estimated to be as high as between 120 and 140 km/h. Rivers, brooks, ponds and seas surged into homes and buildings, filling many with the stench of sour water, overturned oil tanks and even raw sewage.

States of emergency were declared as phone and power lines went down in numerous communities, leaving thousands without electricity for periods ranging from a few hours to several days.  Many communities ran out of gas and perishables such as  milk, bread and baby formula.

Council and highways staff, along with firefighters — mostly volunteers — logged long hours.

Then premier Danny Williams and Prime Minister Stephen Harper  took a helicopter tour of the devastation, touching down in Igor-pummelled communities.

The Armed Forces, rolling in by truck, helicopter and naval vessels, helped put in Bailey bridges and deliver emergency supplies. The Red Cross, municipalities across the province, ordinary citizens, churches and other organizations pitched in with help and donations.

Road crews are still installing permanent bridges, culverts and pavement in the hardest hit areas.

‘There’s a lot of memories gone’ … Continued from page A1

Besides the road destruction, flood and wind damage to small businesses, non-profit organizations and homes ranged from repairable damages to outright devastation, such as the Brushetts’ loss.

The Brushetts’ new, open-concept bungalow is neither huge nor opulent, but it has gleaming hardwood floors and modern features. They hired their son, Jason, a St. John’s contractor, after Igor compensation came through in April and he had it built for them in two months.

Ivy and Angus are grateful for the fine work their son did, and for government compensation. Last fall, Ivy feared they might end up in a home because their insurance company refused to cover the damage.

“We had no money. We are only on the old age pension and he was working years ago, but he wasn't making nothing, just enough to keep the family,” Ivy said.

Their hearts are still on the other side of the community, in the two-storey Angus, now 80, built before they got married more than 53 years ago.

“Well, like I told you, I will never get the other one out of me mind. I’d rather have what I had before I had this, put it that way,” said Angus, who spent years working on schooners and draggers before becoming a carpenter.

“There’s a lot of memories gone, eh,” Ivy added.

They raised eight children in the home and had no mortgage, completing work when they could afford it.

“If we saw that we could get something, we got it, and if we couldn’t, we done without until we could get it,” Ivy said.

“Just as we got it the way we want it is when everything went. … I figured that’s where I would end me days.”

 Four houses were destroyed on a stretch of road fronting a waterway on the Jacques Fontaine side of the community, one of them owned by an elderly lady who had moved to a nursing home.

They were all demolished in the spring. The area is now a flood zone.

“I didn’t want to see it going down,” Ivy said. “Someone came and told us they took it down.”

On Sept. 21, Angus and Ivy were rescued from their second storey by the fire department.

Ivy went back to bed after getting a drink of water early that morning. A little while later she said she heard an awful noise in the house.

“I hit him after I heard it the second time,” Ivy recalled.

“He said, ‘Go on, old woman, you’re always hearing something.’ I said, ‘Yeah, there’s something going on. I wants to go down and get my pill. I can’t go down. I’m afraid.’ ”

Angus got up and went ahead of Ivy to the stairs.

“When he went down the first step, I looked over his shoulder and said, ‘We’re flooded,’” Ivy said.

Their land-line phone was out so she went downstairs, up to her armpits in water, to get her cellphone off the china cabinet, calling her daughter in Marystown, who alerted the fire department.

“They got us out through the hall window upstairs to the dory. Oh my dear I will  never forget it,” she said.

Town Mayor Clifford Allen said he can’t commend the fire department enough for its efforts that day as the town declared a state of emergency.

“They took chances they should never ever have. They were going out in the boat to get people out of houses with the power still on. Power and water. They were up to their necks in water.

“They went above and beyond,” he said.

“Some of them said to me since, ‘When it comes to a time like that, you do what you got to do and you think about the consequences after.’”

A month after Igor, the town was hit by more torrential rain.

As of late August, Allen was still waiting on some work to be done in the town and he lamented that some infrastructure was not funded by the province.

“It’s not gone out of your mind. Every day you are still dealing with Igor,” he said.

“The only way Igor will go out of talk is if another one comes along with a different name.”

Ivy’s and Angus’s son Glen, who also lost his house in the flood, and neighbour Stewart Scott, who three decades ago bought Angus’s grandparents’ house, have rebuilt on higher ground in Jacques Fontaine after getting government compensation.

Scott, a town worker, said he was waken by a neighbour that morning, informing him his truck was surrounded by water.

“When I looked out through the window the water was all up around,” he said, standing on the vacant land where his house used to be.

He, his wife and a son jumped out of the house into the water.

“Everything downstairs was lost. I called the insurance company at 9 o’clock that morning and they told me there was nothing they could do. Danny Williams was here the next day and I told him I was better off if I took a match and burned this.

“You think hard about getting insurance a second time, but what do you do? You got to have it.”

Scott is convinced the section of town will flood again, though Environment Canada called Igor a 50-100-year event. Some in the town blamed the flooding — which had never occurred before — on the culverts installed under the road where a bridge used to be.

“You get so many storms with 100-150 millimetres of rain,” he said. “The infrastructure is not there now.”

Like the Brushetts, Scott doesn’t feel his new house is home.

“I was in that house 31 years. I reared my family up there. The biggest part of your life was in there,” he said.

“When they started tearing this down, I came and they were just after cutting into the corner. I couldn’t watch. I had to leave.”



Organizations: Red Cross, Environment Canada

Geographic location: Trinity Bay, Bonavista, Burgeo Marystown

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Recent comments

  • Robert D
    September 21, 2011 - 13:26

    Moe St.Cool: I guess you didn't clue in to the fact that today is the one-year anniversary of Igor. So it's completely timely and relevant, and yeah, most people actually are caring enough to be interested in how those worst affected are doing now.

  • beka
    September 21, 2011 - 10:24

    Moe St. Cool-------You must be a very troubled person to be so callous-------Hope you never have to go through such heartbreak------ You never forget.

  • Moe St.Cool
    September 21, 2011 - 08:25

    Is anyone else bored with Igor stories? Get over it people...this news is so 2010.