Some Saskatoon homeowners clean up after torrential rain; others spared by new dry pond

·4 min read
Pius Gartner surveys his ruined basement carpets outside of his flooded home.  (Kendall Latimer/CBC - image credit)
Pius Gartner surveys his ruined basement carpets outside of his flooded home. (Kendall Latimer/CBC - image credit)

Pius Gartner says he had to take off his shoes and pants so he could enter his home without getting them soaked last Monday. His corner-lot property became waterfront temporarily when parts of Saskatoon were pummelled by torrential rain.

"Every time it rains heavy this corner floods, but this time it was 14 inches above my back door, so she was tough to hold back the water," he said, noting the water poured in through his basement windows and clothes-dryer vent.

"If I can't laugh about it, I'm going to — It's very disheartening."

Submitted by Pius Gartner
Submitted by Pius Gartner

Gartner has lived on the corner of Dufferin Avenue and Bute Street in the Avalon area since 1979.

"The first probably 15 years we had no problems. It flooded the corner, but it never rose," he said, adding in recent years, the flooding has become more frequent.

"This is actually my third one. That first time, we got disaster relief from the federal government. Second time, I got insurance, but there is no more insurance now because of where we live."

Gartner has already ripped out his carpet and baseboards while running fans to dry things out. He's unsure the extent of the damage to the drywall or appliances.

He's waiting to find out if he qualifies for the provincial disaster assistance program, which is available to cover damage or loss to uninsurable, essential property.

Steve Pasqualotto/CBC
Steve Pasqualotto/CBC

City data shows upwards of 60 millimetres fell in some areas over the course of an hour. It also shows the storm intensity in some parts of the city amounted to a one in 25-year storm for about half an hour, but then became closer to a 1 in 100-year storm.

Every time it rains, I worry about it. - Pius Gartner

Gartner said he learned lessons from the last flood in 2017 — which was also described as a one in 25-year weather event — and the one before that seven years prior, so his important belongings in his basement had already been removed, raised or protected with plastic.

Now he's waiting, hesitant to do any work beyond the necessary repairs: "I'm just going to leave it empty until I know this neighborhood is fixed."

Gartner holds onto a shred of hope that that will happen. Saskatoon is in the middle of implementing its flood control strategy — a nine-year, $54 million project expected to be complete by 2027 — to mitigate flooding in 10 at-risk areas, including the area he lives.

City celebrates success with dry pond

The first major phase of the strategy was the construction of a dry pond at W.W. Ashley Park.

A dry pond is a large, low field area that can be used as park space by the general public — except when it storms. When it rains, the dry pond is meant to hold rain water until the storm sewer system is ready to handle the influx.

"It had its first test on Monday with an intense rainfall," said Angela Gardiner, the city's general manager of utilities and environment. "We're really pleased in how it worked."

Gardiner says there was no surface flooding reported at the three primary intersections targeted by the project, and about 37 people's homes were spared damage.

"We've heard from a couple of the residents that had previously flooded and their basements were dry so they were very happy," she said.

The dry pond reached capacity about 3 p.m. and was fully drained by 8 p.m. when the storm sewer system was able to take in the massive quantity of water. Gardiner is confident the city will be able to get through all of the projects within the targeted timeline.

A second dry pond is already under construction at nearby Churchill Park. The third dry pond, to be located at Weaver Park, is in the public engagement-and-design phase.

It's construction should begin in spring 2023, and should help reduce flooding on Gartner's property.

Gartner hopes the city stays on track. He says with each flood-event, he grows more tired and emotional when he considers selling the property and moving away from his family home. He says it was supposed to be their nest egg.

It also has sentimental value.

"My daughter grew up here, went to school here. I don't want to leave, but I might have to now," Gartner said. "Every time it rains, I worry about it."

Kendall Latimer/CBC
Kendall Latimer/CBC
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