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Greater Madawaska begins cleanup under a state of emergency

Saturday's devastating storm that rolled through the Calabogie area that caused two deaths and hundreds of trees to be uprooted resulted in power outages that led to a state of emergency declaration in the Greater Madawaska Township.

Two confirmed deaths in the Greater Madawaska region of the Ottawa Valley during the destructive storm on Saturday, May 21, resulted in the township’s Mayor Brian Hunt to issue a state of emergency for the municipality.

Mayor Hunt said much of the debris and fallen trees scattered across both county and township roads has been cleared, however several private roads are still not accessible.

“First off I want to extend a sincere thanks to all our township staff, including our public works and fire department for all their efforts during this very trying time,” he said. “Along with the County of Renfrew Public Works staff, the majority of our roads have been cleared of the large trees and debris. However, our biggest challenge at the moment is downed hydro lines and we are working with hydro staff to at least get the lines pushed off the roads so vehicles can pass safely.”

Hunt said the main issue now is access to private roads.

“The real damage occurred along County Roads 65 (Centennial Lake Road) and County Road 71 (Matawachan Road) and parts of Centennial Lake Road still have trees on the roadway but they are passable," he said. "It appears the Matawachan area was one of the hardest hit areas and Hydro One cannot give a precise time when all the power will be restored.”

Mayor Hunt said several residences along both County Road 71 and the private roads in the area are equipped with generators and he complimented the residents amid reports they are sharing generators among themselves to help one another.

“Times like this is when you see the best of people and we have neighbours helping out neighbours," he added. "One of the benefits they have is the residences are on wells so they have access to water and that certainly helps out.”

When he declared a state of emergency on May 22, town officials were only beginning to understand the level of destruction when the storms hit the area starting mid-afternoon, including the unconfirmed reports of fatalities.

“As a result of the storm, there were unfortunately two fatalities in the township,” Mayor Hunt said at the time. “I along with the rest of council and township staff wish to express our sincere condolences to the friends and families of the victims that lost their lives during the storm.”

Hunt said the focus now is the immediate cleanup of the region, especially around the Calabogie, Mount. St. Patrick, Black Donald Lake and other areas.

“Like many parts of the Valley, we have some areas like Griffith that had relatively minor damage compared to Centennial Lake which is just a few kilometres away that had several downed trees and residences that were cutoff over the weekend,” he said. “By declaring a state of emergency we are able to hire crews and concentrate on removal of all debris to ensure the roads are safe for travel.

He explained the declaration of an emergency allows a municipality to claim a percentage of expenses directly related to the storm for cleanup and other factors. In order to claim reimbursement from the province, municipal staff must document and demonstrate a minimum of three percent in damage to municipal infrastructure.

“With all the fallen trees and debris I am sure will be above the three percent threshold,” he said.

He concluded by stating he could not predict when the declaration will be lifted. 

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