EXSHAW – In Exshaw, everyone is doing their part to combat the groundwater flooding that has caused havoc over the past two weeks for more than 20 homes in the MD of Bighorn hamlet.
The community has banded together during this difficult time and a volunteer tent has been set up on Pigeon Mountain Drive. Residents have been helping out when they can, signing up for hourly shifts.
“For the past three months, everyone has been at home, so for the last two weeks we’ve actually been able to focus all our attention on this. Now that things are reopening people might have to start returning to work though,” said Exshaw resident Adam Driemel.
He said they need people to help relieve residents who have been working non-stop since the start of the flooding.
Driemel said the work is not difficult. The most pressing issue right now is to make sure the pumps are operating correctly in order to keep crawl spaces from flooding completely and to continue moving the water away from homes.
One Exshaw resident who has been busy over the past 10 days monitoring the pumps is nine-year-old Mikaela Smith.
Every morning at 8:30 a.m., Smith has walked across Mt. Mcgillivary Drive, donning rubber boots with sunflowers on them, a yellow rain jacket and red earmuffs to drown out the constant drone of the pumps. She sets up a lawn chair and keeps an eye on the water pumps on her street.
Soon after the flooding started, a large puddle formed in front of the Thompson’s home. The puddle has now affectionately become known as Thompson Lake by locals.
The MD set up large water pumps to deal with all the water, but every 10 minutes the filter would become plugged and an employee from the MD would have to stop the pump.
The municipality attempted to remove the filter, but without it, the pump created a strong vortex and sucked in air, shutting down.
Mikaela’s father, Duncan Smith, works for the MD, and placed a couple of rubber balls over the vortex created by the pumps to make sure they continued to operate. As long as the balls spin in place, the pumps are working efficiently.
However, due to the constant strong winds in Exshaw, Mikaela was asked to monitor the situation.
“If the balls keep spinning that’s a good thing,” said Mikaela. “Sometimes the wind will blow them off the water, so I will put them back. I am happy to help out.”
Al Hogarth, the MD of Bighorn Utilities Foreman, said Mikaela has been working tirelessly and is dedicated to her responsibilities.
“She’s a nine-year-old kid who needed something to do and I know she’ll sit there all day and make sure they’re OK,” said Hogarth. “She is happy to do it and I think she feels like she’s contributing. It’s an important job what she’s doing, if those pumps start slipping then the water will collect quickly.”
Mikaela has been so dedicated to her job she will not leave her post unattended. As such, she can be seen doing school work at the same time.
“I can hear the way the pump works now, so now I don’t have to watch the balls all the time. I can do homework and stuff out here too,” she said.
Hogarth also spoke to the response from other residents in the community helping out those affected on Mt. Mcgillivary Drive and Pigeon Mountain Drive.
“There have been a few cases were folks have come down to lend a hand basically just to babysit people’s pumps during the night to give them a little bit of a break.”
Kelly Suchan said the response from neighbours has been incredible.
“You put out a call for help and in 10 minutes you have 10 people ready to help you out,” Suchan said.
Residents have been looking after each other in other ways, like helping neighbours clear out their basements or main floors to save belongings from the rising water.
Even making sure everyone is taking the time to eat, from Suchan having a neighbourhood barbecue last Friday (June 5) evening to Sue Arlidge passing out freshly baked cinnamon buns and Baymag providing lunch for residents.
“It was a way to get everyone together to have something to eat, have fun and decompress,” said Suchan.
“We saw this community come together in 2013 and it’s coming together now too,” said Hogarth.