Jeannette Muileman arrived home late Sunday afternoon, Sept. 26, to find her mobile home along Route 103 in Somerville surrounded by water.
The culvert, which carries water under the road in front of her home, couldn’t handle the rush delivered by more than 53 mm of rain that fell that day. The water crossed the road and under her trailer and carport next to it.
Only after the excess water receded did Muileman discover the life-altering reality left behind. The ground supporting the south side of her trailer disappeared with the water, leaving one end of her home precariously dangling over a deep ravine. With her home already twisting, it didn’t take an expert to realize the home where Muileman and her grandson lived was no longer safe.
Muileman said she understood she couldn’t stay there, but she didn’t know where to turn for help.
She and her grandson spent the first night in a nearby motel. For the next several days, they lived in their tent trailer parked in the front yard of the home Muileman bought four years ago.
Overwhelmed by her dire situation, she began seeking help only to watch her frustrations grow.
She said her insurance company responded quickly to deliver bad news. It deemed the damage erosion, which Muileman’s policy didn’t cover. The one-line comment in the email with the attached response letter from the insurance company told the story.
“Hello, Mrs. Muileman,
“Kindly find the letter of denial, as discussed.”
Muileman said her luck didn’t get better as she turned to other places for help.
She attempted to call the Emergency Measures Organization’s Disaster Relief Assistance but to no avail.
“I called three times, but the phone just kept ringing,” she said. “There was no answer or even a chance to leave a message.”
Muileman said she called MLA Bill Hogan’s office and talked to someone, but neither the MLA nor his office called back.
Hogan confirmed his office talked to Muileman, and they asked the Department of Transportation to open a work order.
“I didn’t know she was homeless,” Hogan said. “I would think the Red Cross would be the best help in those situations.”
He said EMO doesn’t deal with situations like Muileman’s, explaining it responds to widespread disasters.
The homeowner said a DTI representative arrived to look at the culvert and the damage. She said he acknowledged the flow of water can now be heavier than the culvert can handle.
“They need a bigger culvert,” Muileman said.
Mark Taylor, a communications spokesperson for DTI, said staff inspect flood situations when required, adding they will meet with anyone who has an issue.
He said staff will assess damage to determine what they “can or should do.”
During a weather event like the heavy rain on Sept. 26, DTI staff look at the damage to map out the next steps they should take.
Taylor said DTI handles issues on a “case by case” basis.
While Muileman found little support through official channels, she said neighbours and others stepped forward.
She said a neighbouring couple arranged for her to move, at least temporarily, to a house in Jacksontown, where she was born and raised before entering the military.
“They said I could stay as long as I need,” an appreciative Muileman said.
After 23 years in the forces, Muileman said she got a medical release over 15 years ago. Currently, she works at a long-term care home in the Hartland area.
A week after the flood, Tammy Ruff, a co-worker and friend, stood beside Muileman as they packed items to move to her new home. Other friends and neighbours responded to help her move.
Muileman knew that when they moved out of their Somerville home, they wouldn’t return. She said she lacks the money to fix the damage. The mobile home sits near the road on a high embankment that leads to their backyard. The culvert carries the water under the road to a small brook running through her property.
The relaxing nature of the babbling brook turned into a frightening torrent of Sept. 26, forever changing Muileman’s future.
Ruff doesn’t hide her frustration about her friend’s predicament, especially her inability to find support from officials whose job, she says, is to help people in trouble.
“This is ridiculous. They’re doing this to her,” Ruff said as she helped collect her friend’s belongings for her move.
Environment Canada spokesperson Ian Hubbard said the weather station at Woodstock Airport in Newbridge recorded 81.2 mm rain over Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 25 and 26, with 53.3 mm falling through the day Sunday. He said almost 37 mm of that fell over three hours from noon to 3 p.m. on Sunday.
The heavy rain caused significant damage to roads throughout Carleton County.
Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun