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Not just roads destroyed in Wawa flood (photo)

It wasn't just roads and highways that were destroyed in the flood that devastated Wawa this past week.
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It wasn't just roads and highways that were destroyed in the flood that devastated Wawa this past week.

The record rainfall that eroded the earth beneath Highway 17, causing huge chunks of it to collapse, also resulted in the destruction of the Northern Lights Motel as well as the residence of Jim and Deb Sanders (pictured).

Wawa resident and faithful SooToday.com reader, Debbie Banks, was thoughtful enough to bring the Sanders' plight to our attention.

"I know that Jim is a senior... [and] he is a local artist who has lived in our town forever!" she told us. "I am not sure where to contact him at this time as there is so much chaos here in town as you can imagine. But we are all safe and no one was hurt."

In an email to Banks regarding the Sanders, another Wawa resident, Allan Bjornaa, stated: "They are staying with some friends and are safe, but the house is basically gone. Jim's pottery building is basically destroyed as well. And I am sure their vehicles were swept away too."

Bjornaa has taken it upon himself to start fundraising efforts to assist the Sanders in rebuilding what the rain has taken from them.

As he states on the page: "These are amazing people who have helped me personally many times. Now it is my turn. Please give what you can. Every cent will hopefully help them build their new dream home and make life a little easier in the mean time."

Donations are currently being accepted here and at the time of writing, $2,440 had been collected.

"I saw Deb buying a few things she needed. She is heartbroken about the house but incredibly moved by everyone's generosity," Bjornaa commented on the page.

"We have had our first donation from scotland! Love the internet!" he happily remarked.

In the mean time, damage assessments continue in Wawa, and Highway 17 remains closed.

A news release issued by the Municipality of Wawa follows.

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Flood conditions in Wawa continue to worsen.

While the rain stopped 36 hours ago, the runoff continues to cause severe problems while the Municipality of Wawa assesses the true extent of the damage.

The Michipicoten First Nation is still stranded from the municipal road system and today they are working with the OPP, Ministry of Natural Resources, local contractors, and the Municipality of Wawa to evacuate the most vulnerable to Wawa.

mayor Linda Nowicki stated: "Our municipal staff and community emergency team have developed a good system of hosting evacuees from other communities and will ensure that our friends from Michipicoten First Nation are given the care necessary to make them feel at home."

The Municipality of Wawa is still feeling the effects of an economy destroyed by the collapse of the forest economy in 2007 and the loss of 1,200 direct jobs in the region.

Facing increasing unemployment, dropping assessment values, and a loss of ability to tax the many power dams in the area, Wawa will be hard pressed to compensate for the financial resources necessary to recover from this most recent disaster.

Efforts are underway to estimate the total damage which is thought to be in the tens of millions of dollars and to request that the minister of municipal affairs and housing declares Wawa a disaster area.

Mayor Nowicki stated that "Wawa is a large area and we are now only beginning to understand the depth of the damage due to this flooding. late last night requests were made to the Province of Ontario for assistance in locating materials and equipment that will assist in repairing municipal roadways that will reunite members of the Michipicoten First Nation and our community."

the Municipality of Wawa continues to be concerned with respect to the information it seeks on the status of Highway 17 both north and south.

The most up to date news from contractors for the Province of Ontario have indicated that Highway 17 south to Sault Ste. Marie will not be open for two day, while Highway 17 north to White River will remain closed for at least a week.

Mayor Nowicki said that "our community should not be penalized because the Province of Ontario did not make provisions with its contractor to have the necessary materials and equipment on site to deal with this disaster."

"The stated length of this closure has now started to affect our local businesses and employment, making this unacceptable," Mayor Nowicki went on to say.

Michael Mantha, MPP for Algma-Manitoulin, was in Wawa on October 26 and today.

Mayor Nowicki is now encouraging Premier Dalton McGuinty; Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and Aboriginal Affairs, Kathleen Wynne; and Ontario Commissioner of Community Safety, Dan Hefkey to tour Wawa and see first-hand the devastation that has occurred.

"Wawa has a functioning airport, available helicopters, and access to the damaged areas, and we would be more than pleased to tour these areas with the premier, minister, and commissioner," Stated Mayor Nowicki.

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Earlier SooToday.com coverage of this story
 


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Donna Hopper

About the Author: Donna Hopper

Donna Hopper has been a photojournalist with SooToday since 2007, and her passion for music motivates her to focus on area arts, entertainment and community events.
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