Local disaster volunteer shares Thunder Bay experience

The devastating flooding in Thunder Bay has been one of the largest Canadian Red Cross disaster responses in Ontario.

The devastating flooding in Thunder Bay has been one of the largest Canadian Red Cross disaster responses in Ontario.

And a Red Deer woman who was deployed to the disaster in early June can attest to the horrific circumstances.

Bonita Slobodian, 52, who has volunteered with the Red Deer Red Cross disaster management team for two years, worked 101 hours from June 2 to the June 9 in Thunder Bay. She says it was unlike anything she has ever seen.

“We had people there from B.C. right to Newfoundland from the Red Cross,” Slobodian said.

“I keep thinking about some of the families.”

More than 3,000 homes were affected in Thunder Bay after a May 27 storm flooded the Atlantic Avenue Secondary Sewage Treatment Plant, which serves about 108,000 residents. Some residents were flooded with knee-deep sewage water.

Slobodian says her first role was to input information in their databases about some of the more vulnerable cases.

“Some were told that they have to be out of their houses right away so we would categorize them and make phone calls and find places for them to stay,” Slobodian explained.

After two days of inputting information, Slobodian was needed at a shelter at the Lakehead University.

“Some of these poor people are going to be out of their homes for months,” Slobodian said.

The problem, she explained, was that because the sewer system was already so overtaxed, residents were unable to pump the sewage water out of their basements.

“Some of them had some of these awful situations.”

Homeowners continue to have their damaged basements repaired but Slobodian says the Red Cross made a difference.

“At least we could say we can feed you and give you a nice clean place to stay.”

Slobodian joined the disaster management team after attending an information meeting on the Red Cross in Red Deer. She knew right away that she wanted to volunteer with the organization.

For more information, contact 1-800-418-1111 or www.redcross.ca.

jjones@bprda.wpengine.com