Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'One-in-a-hundred-year event'

Homeowners, businesses clean up after rare downpour in southwest

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Water swamps Grant Memorial Church parking lot and Rosa Militano's and Jorge Esteves' basement (below) after heavy rainfall in the southwest corner of the city overwhelmed sewers.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Water swamps Grant Memorial Church parking lot and Rosa Militano's and Jorge Esteves' basement (below) after heavy rainfall in the southwest corner of the city overwhelmed sewers. Photo Store

Homeowners sustaining damage to their homes after Thursday's heavy rainfall will be on the hook for their own repairs as the City of Winnipeg says the city sewers were overwhelmed.

City of Winnipeg spokesman Bill Watters said the amount of rain that fell in the short time period was extremely rare.

Between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. Thursday, up to 55 millimetres of rain fell in some areas of southwest Winnipeg.

"It definitely is far beyond the capacity of our storm sewer system to handle and our combined sewer system to handle an event like that," said Watters, who is a field service operations engineer.

"It's not a city-sewer problem, it's a rainfall-intensity problem. The rainfall that fell in this particular area would exceed a one-in-a-hundred-year event. Nobody builds sewer systems to handle a one-in-a-hundred-year event."

The areas most affected Thursday were in River Heights, Tuxedo and Charleswood.

'If my husband hadn't been home, we would have been devastated'

-- River Heights homeowner Rosa Militano

Watters said as of 3:35 p.m. Friday, the city had reports of 30 homes with raw sewage in the basement and 47 homes with clean water in the basement. Those numbers are expected to change as more homeowners report damage.

Rosa Militano and Jorge Esteves on Mathers Bay East in River Heights saw their basement get flooded with ankle-high water and raw sewage. Esteves said he was home with his son and noticed the water level in the basement floor drain was unusually high.

"It was quite high and it was percolating, and I thought 'Oh my god, I hope it doesn't rise any further,' " he said.

But it did, and Esteves said he moved everything out of the basement, including their TV and a freezer. Militano said they were lucky Esteves was home to save everything.

"If my husband hadn't been home, we would have been devastated," she said.

"That would have been thousands of dollars."

The smell of the sewage was also noticeable when the water came up, but it was gone by Friday evening thanks to Esteves and Militano cleaning all day.

Most of their damage was to the tiles in the basement, but Militano said they're also worried about mould.

"We're going to have to get someone in to see, does it have to be cut out," she said.

Militano said she and Esteves have put a claim in with the city and were told they'd get a letter next week.

Militano said they will probably get a sump pump installed in their basement.

IKEA was one local business hit hard as it is located in the southwest area of the city where there was especially heavy rainfall. The store experienced significant flooding that resulted in about an inch of water covering the floor of the main level. Customers were evacuated around 8 p.m. without incident.

However, it was able to open Friday for business as usual and carry on with its "Midnight Madness" event.

"Everybody worked furiously until about 3 o'clock in the morning moving product. We're really lucky that things are on pallets and that we have cement flooring," said Madeleine Lwenborg-Frick, public relations manager for IKEA Canada, in a telephone interview from Toronto.

"Because everything is on pallets, things were raised so the damage is extremely limited, which is fantastic for us," she said.

For flood protection, homeowners are encouraged to equip their homes with backwater valves and sump pumps and have proper lot grading.

Watters said a backwater valve would prevent raw sewage from getting into a flooded basement resulting in clean water, or water with no sewage in it, accumulating.

"Clean water can (accumulate for) a number of reasons, but most commonly, the person might have a backwater valve so the raw sewage can't get back into their basement but they might not have a sump pump. The weeping tile flow, which would normally flow out their house sewer service, now hasn't got anywhere to go so it will back up into the basement. That would result in clean-water (flooding)," Watters said.

Watters said the sewers in the affected areas have been checked by city crews and are back to normal operations.

More rain is likely to fall through the weekend. Isolated showers are expected both today and Sunday.

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca oliver.sachgau@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 22, 2013 A3

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