Flooding turns Ottawa Valley community into island

A flooded road has left about 100 households in Whitewater Region with no way in or out, turning their shoreline community into an island.

People in the Westmeath, Ont., neighbourhood tell CBC they’re surrounded by water, and have resorted to using boats to ferry in supplies — and people.

The community, on an anvil-shaped peninsula about 140 kilometres northwest of Ottawa, is on the Ottawa River and Lacroix Bay, both of which have spilled their banks, making the only road leading in impassable by car for the last week and a half.

The road is now at least one metre underwater, and at the flood’s peak only the military’s armoured vehicles could make it in. The only other way in or out is by boat.

“It is really strange. I mean, we can’t get out,” said Phil Cottrell, who lives with his wife in the suddenly isolated community.

He hasn’t left since the road became submerged, but said several neighbours have been using boats to bring in supplies for the community.

Brian Hamilton is one of the people putting his boat to good use to help his neighbours. Every morning at 5:30 he ferries some neighbours down the flooded road so they can get to work.

The local community centre has been providing meals for people stuck in their homes, which Hamilton has been delivering to his neighbours.

Larry Gibson, a 20-year resident of the area, said he’s feeling cut off, but he’s grateful to have such good neighbours to help him through it.

“In our end we’re fortunate that we have a good group. We get together and have our meals together, and that sort of helps keep the morale up,” Gibson said.

Water levels will keep rising

They have enough food and drinking water for now, but officials warn water levels will continue to rise well into Friday.

“There’s some people whose prescription medicine had run out, so we were able to get that into them,” Whitewater emergency management coordinator John Wilker said. He also serves as the township’s fire chief.

“Some had pets that needed food, [and] we’ve been delivering water on a regular basis.”

Whitewater Region declared a state of emergency April 25, and called in the military to help deliver sandbags and supplies to stranded homes.

They even brought in bales of hay for some hungry horses trapped in the neighbourhood.

While the water has cut off the neighbourhood, many homes have been otherwise unaffected by the flood, Wilker said.

“It’s basically their decision if they want to stay or not at this point,” he said.

The municipality checks on the isolated residents every day to make sure they’re safe and well supplied.

Other than that, they can only wait for the water to finally recede, and for the road in to become passable once again.

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