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Mud Lake mom flees flood with three children

Sara Rumbolt gracious for all the help people are offering


Published on May 17, 2017

Members of a search and rescue team travel by boat on Mud Lake Road toward the boat launch area as they check on people in the flooded town following the evacuation.

©Submitted photo

In their newly built home, the young Rumbolt family of Mud Lake felt safe even as river water levels began to noticeably rise far below them.

The Churchill River rising has been a typical spring occurrence in this part of Labrador. In a house elevated about six feet off the ground and about 150 feet from the shore, surely there was no concern of flooding.

The river continued to rise— reportedly because of an ice jam at the mouth of the river where it flows into Lake Melville — up the shorelines in the darkness of Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Before long, Sara Rumbolt was watching water continue the climb toward her home.

The feeling of safety passed, and the fear that would race through the community of about 50 people quickly became reality. Her three children — 6, 3, and 1 years of age — were dressed in the early morning hours of Wednesday, placed aboard a boat and transported to waiting military helicopters for evacuation.

“Waiting to get evacuated took so long,” Rumbolt said Wednesday afternoon via telephone from the Big Land B&B, whose owners offered accommodations to the evacuated people of Mud Lake.

“It was like, where are those helicopters?”

The family inquired about the evacuation in the early morning hours, she said, but there wasn’t much anybody could do at that point. Reports indicate the helicopters had to await daylight to begin evacuations.

“When you have little children and elderly people down there, you are thinking, shouldn’t they send something to at least get the little ones out?” she said.

The wait and the anxiety of the rising river was a lot to handle, Rumbolt said.

“I was sitting there all night, wide awake, just watching it come in and thinking, when is it going to be stopping, and wondering if I should wake up the kids now or should I wait,” she said. “My children didn’t know what to make of it, being woke up at 2 o’clock in the morning and thrown in a boat in the dark.”

Along with her three children, her mother-in-law, sister-in-law and niece, she eventually flew to Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Her husband, Carl, stayed behind to ensure their husky teams and their pets — about 30 dogs — were safe and could eventually be rescued. Adding to the stress of the situation, the separation of the family is difficult.

“I had to take the kids and go for their safety,” Rumbolt said. “I couldn’t consider myself, I had to think of them because they are my first priority right now. I had to keep them safe. If that meant leaving my house and my belongings, everything we own, so be it.”

An area of Mud Lake flooded by the elevated level of the Churchill River.
Submitted photo

In Happy Valley-Goose Bay, the community was rallying together to prepare to greet, comfort and care for the evacuees as best they could. Broomfield Arena was utilized as a base of operation, and Canadian Red Cross volunteers were on hand to offer assistance.

Local B&B, hotel and motel owners as well as individual homeowners offered accommodations. Rumbolt said it appears the town and its people are going the extra mile for them, and that means a lot.

“It takes a lot of the stress off,” she said. “You feel, yes, this is what a community is for, but it is wonderful to see it happen.”

Ray and Eleonora Godwin, owners of Big Land B&B, were humble in discussing their generosity to those in need. Ray felt it was nothing exceptional, just what they should do.

“I was born here and lived here for almost 60 years,” he said. “If you got a chance to help somebody, you help them.”

Godwin said he has friends in Mud Lake, so he wanted to do whatever he could. To hear of groups and organizations like the Nunatsiavut Government, the Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Canadian Red Cross, Salvation Army and many more responding to assist the people of Mud Lake is reassuring, he said.

“It is great to see. You never know when the shoe is going to be on the other foot.”

Not only did the Godwins provide the seven family members with two bedrooms, a kitchen and a living room area, they cooked them a big pot of soup for lunch.

“I’ll treat them the same as I treat anybody else,” he said.

Rumbolt realizes she will eventually have to face the reality back home in Mud Lake. Her husband, brother-in-law and father-in-law stayed behind in the town to ensure the safety of their dogs and do what they could for their homes and belongings.

“They are trying to stay right to the bitter end,” she said.

She is still in disbelief the river actually reached their home. Earlier Wednesday, she was told the water was about a couple of inches below the door of their home, where it would flood the house. As the day progressed, her understanding is the rising water slowed. They hope it recedes.

“We are hoping the house will at least be salvageable enough so we can move back in when it is all said and done,” she said.

Vehicles, snowmobiles and other items have been submerged or washed away.

“It is kind of crazy to think you spend all your life’s money trying to build a house to raise your children in to make them feel safe, and this happens and you don’t feel safe,” she said.

 

cory.hurley@saltwire.com