Surrounded by a sea of muddy water that destroyed their basement and flooded outbuildings on Tuesday, a Red Deer-area couple blame Red Deer County officials for initially “brushing off” their concerns about a frozen culvert.
“I’m more than devastated. I feel violated,” said Jim Earl, who estimates his property south of Burnt Lake Trail sustained up to $40,000 of damage from water and debris that couldn’t drain down a blocked culvert beside Rural Road 10, west of Red Deer.
His wife Patsi, her voice breaking with emotion, described trying to save family photos and anything else that could be dragged out of their furnished basement containing a foot-and-a-half of water. Their furnace was ruined.
Several outbuildings on the property also flooded, including one containing equipment for Patsi’s airbrushing business.
“My husband told the county (on Monday) that it was urgent and an emergency, and getting pretty scary, and they just brushed him off,” said Patsi, as three sump pumps worked to drain water still pouring into the couple’s basement late on Tuesday afternoon.
The culvert was finally unblocked at about 5 p.m. Tuesday by a contracted maintenance crew that had been sent to the property by Red Deer County workers earlier that day.
But Jim said he first tried to get the county’s attention on Monday morning, while flood waters were still about 100-feet away from his house south of Burnt Lake Trail.
“They had an unbelievable attitude,” recalled the Red Deer area resident, who added the county worker he spoke to wrongly told him the flooding problem was due to runoff and that nothing could be done, since there was no culvert near their property.
“I couldn’t even get anyone to come out here and have a look,” said Jim.
He first noticed water leaking into his home’s finished basement at 2 a.m. on Tuesday.
The couple began scrambling to set up pumps and try to rescue items. But at one point, part of the basement’s drywall caved in from the water pressure and it became impossible to stop the flood from pouring in, said Patsi.
“We were working all day and the water was just getting deeper and deeper . . . I was totally freaking out.”
The couple had also called Emergency Management Alberta on Monday, which Patsi believes was instrumental in getting Red Deer county workers to take the situation more seriously.
Red Deer County’s operations manager Marty Campbell said he did not know much about the Earls’ situation when contacted by the Advocate late on Tuesday, but he intended to investigate how their concerns were handled.
Campbell said his department’s staff had been dealing with numerous flooding incidents across the county since the weekend.
This winter’s high snowfall and slow melting pattern had left a lot of snow and ice when temperatures finally hit double digits this week, said Campbell. “We had more than the usual amount of snow melt,” and many culverts were still frozen or blocked by debris.
While there are some 9,500 county culverts, not all of them are mapped, he added.
The Earls don’t know yet whether insurance will cover their flood damage.