The following is a series of events which transpired in Pierson and the RM of Edward starting Sunday, June 29. We were hit severely and suddenly; no warning or chances to make preparations for the onslaught of water which attacked us, and which for a time marooned us so completely.
• Monday, June 30 — Living nine miles north of Pierson, I was not able to return home last evening; water was roaring over our road, filling and overflowing two large culverts. By morning, all but one road that accesses our municipality had lost bridges and/or culverts.
Offering to help, I was assigned to calling every person I could get a hold of, to request them to call the pharmacy in Melita and order necessary medications for one week. Brave community folks made three separate “medication” runs during the morning. We are infinitely grateful to the pharmacist for his help.
RM staff, fire department and multiple volunteers pumped water, kept sewer lines from backing up, prepared and provided food; basically worked around the clock keeping our town safe and operable.
RM councillors spent the day phoning — desperate appeals to secure help and support, to ensure that emergency medical services would be available if required. By 6:09 p.m., the provincial government had not returned calls; EMO refused assistance and STARS denied ambulance air service to our area.
• 8:30 pm — Gerry Delorme, head of provincial EMS, came to the RM office. He assured the council members and citizens present that EMS (ie. STARS or one of two provincial jets) would be available from Melita — as long as patients could be transported there by land. Delorme also contacted MB Hydro to ensure they would be available if needed.
• 8:45 p.m. — A call was received from Mike Garnier, EMO director of operations, and the decision was made to execute a phone call-out. Subsequently a bevy of ladies quickly came to the office and spent hours phoning everyone in the RM and town that could be reached to find out: names, numbers, location, willingness to evacuate, can an ambulance reach you, and are you able to drive out?
• Tuesday, July 1 — The one remaining bridge was definitely closing this morning — under water.
• 12:50 p.m. — Now in constant contact, with the imminent closure of the bridge, EMO again requested a repeat call-out exercise asking further questions: current locations, would you want to be evacuated as this may be the final chance, do you need assistance and if not, do you have enough food, meds and supplies to last a couple of weeks? The ladies trooped in again and spent several more hours recalling hundreds of people, this time working out of the new fire hall, our emergency operations centre, complete with ample boardroom space, Internet access and Wi-Fi availability.
• Wednesday, July 2 — I viewed the premier’s report Tuesday evening, standing on the highway at Melita praising the volunteers for the wonderful job they were doing. The video also showed bridges out alongside of Melita, and a shot of the flooded golf course. Greg Selinger did not bother to make another three-minute trip in his helicopter to Pierson and the RM of Edward to see multiple displaced families, 19-plus bridges/culverts washed out, water over numerous roads, RM staff and councillors, local firefighters and dozens of volunteers pumping water, preparing meals, performing callouts at EMO’s request, opening the grocery store on a stat holiday, etc.
Not a word or picture of any of those events. The situation is happening in Tilston, Reston and Pipestone areas as well I understand — nothing about them either.
• July 11 — We now have road access to Melita and only nine families still evacuated. Highways and RM crews are working very, very hard to repair roads. Dozens remain under water, awaiting grading and culvert replacements once the water has receded, and up to 10 bridges require restoration.
The restaurant and bank have reopened, the store is able to receive supplies and the fuel truck has been able to replenish the tanks at the local Agro centre. Even mail and papers are making their way to town as usual.
We are very appreciative for all the offers of help that have been received (heavy construction companies and disaster
clean-up organizations who are willing to pitch in once the restoration phase can begin) as we struggle to cope with the aftermath of this natural disaster. My comment to the media folks with whom I have had the privilege of speaking during this difficult time is always, “we are farmers, we will get through it!”
In conclusion, our plea is for the provincial government to be fairer in their determination of what is considered important enough to respond. The RM of Edward had previously declared a state of emergency on June 5 and were told that they were perhaps being hasty and overreacting and to take it off.
Considering the efforts of volunteers and the quick response of municipal staff, councillors and our fire department, perhaps the provincial government needs to show respect and support for the very real and competent people of this corner of the province!
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 14, 2014