Whether by Fire or by Flood

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Two years ago, this very week, May 1st, 2016 to be exact, Fort McMurray, in Alberta, Western Canada was a tinder box, and went up in flames. We covered that tragedy here on the blog. Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced, thousands upon thousands of homes were burned to the ground.

But, resilient as people are, Fort McMurray is on the rebound as rebuilding has been going on since the all clear was sounded.

Seasonal changes have been occurring … This is fact.

Winters have been long and arduous. The snow pack is deep, again this year. Snow has been falling to the ground across Canada into the month of May this year. Here in Quebec, Winter went so long, we thought it would never end.

Conditions out West are not much better. The Winter season dropped inordinate amounts of snow on mountainous terrain, and across the prairies. melting snow running downslope into rivers, is a serious danger.

Now, that very snow is melting at rapid rates. The almost sudden shift from Winter into Spring, over the past few weeks, is wreaking havoc on communities across the country.

Rivers here in Quebec, New Brunswick, and across Canada, from Manitoba to British Columbia have risen so high that they have burst their banks and once again, the season of flooding has begun in earnest.

Last year, flooding caused by rising rivers here around the island of Montreal, forced hundreds of families from their homes. With that flooding, many of those homes were deemed uninhabitable. People are still living in hotels, a year later. Some of those families have been tossed onto the streets, having over stayed their welcome.

The Province will not rebuild a home in a flood plain, for the one reason that in a flood plain, homes will flood seasonally, so why pay to rebuild a home that is going to get wet again and again. So where do you relocate families who have, some, lived in those homes for decades ? Rising water, from coast to coast is problematic.

This is not a passing oddity for sure. We are watching the climate decimate homes and property across the board, year after year. Either by Fire or by Water.

Where are they supposed to go now ?

Homes in flood plains have yet to be repaired, and the Province and the City have yet to do what they need to do to get these families back into their homes, that STILL need to be cleaned, repaired and for many, rebuilt from the ground up.

And now in 2018, the rivers are rising again. Severe flooding has stricken New Brunswick in very serious conditions. People are running for their lives, having to be evacuated by boats because vehicles cannot pass deep water.

This same problem has affected points West from Manitoba through to British Columbia.

If conditions are too dry … Wildfires are a given.
If conditions are too wet … Flooding blankets the country.

If this is a problem in First world cities in Canada, imagine what is happening, on Third World Reserves, also in Canada. Our Reserve inhabitants have been in constant flux, being airlifted from their reserves to bigger cities that can accommodate them because their land has been flooded.

This is also fact … Third World reserves in First World Canada …

Whether it be the lack of clean water, or substandard housing, or health concerns, our people who live on reserves in rural Canada, have it very bad. And the government has done very little to alleviate or mitigate this very serious issue.

Many reserves are located on land that is either land locked, (read: Forest) or only accessible by plane or by boat. And with the flooding season already begun in many communities, the airlift of people being moved from one location to another has been going on for weeks now, as rising waters inundate lower lying communities.

You don’t often hear about the plight of the Third World reserves in Canada, because it is a dirty little secret, that nobody talks about, but every once in a while, the National News will hit a piece about current conditions on the ground.

Reserves on land that are not connected to Big City Infrastructure suffer more than those main line big cities, in comparison. When a river jumps its banks on land that is not regulated by dams or levies, or infrastructure, the damage is severe.

Once a river jumps its banks, where ever that river lies … Mitigation is pointless.

Rivers have jumped their banks across Canada.

Welcome to the Spring Thaw …

Watch the Heartbreaking Live Stream of an LDS Chapel Burning Down in Idaho

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Courtesy: LDS Daily Online World

Just after 2 p.m. on Tuesday, a fire broke out at a chapel for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Swan Valley, Idaho. The live stream from an East Idaho News chopper, found below, is being watched by thousands on social media as firefighters from across Eastern Idaho work to put the blaze out.

No one has been injured in the fire and the cause has not yet been determined. A representative for the Church told East Idaho News.com that the fire likely started in the attic. At this point, the building is considered to be a complete lost. The steeple has collapsed into the building, which is completely ablaze. Crews are expected to work throughout the night to try and contain the fire. We’ll provided updates as they come.

Forward to the last twenty minutes or so of the video to see the full state of the blaze at the time of this article.

This is important because Elder Christensen lives in Idaho. So I called him to check up on the community. And they live about four hours away from Swan Valley.

The loss of a chapel is a huge impact on the community there.

Thursday – Israel is Burning

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About 80,000 people have been told to evacuate their homes as wildfires swept into Israel’s third largest city of Haifa. The fires follow a two-month drought and are being fanned by strong winds in the north of the city. Wildfires are also threatening homes near Jerusalem and in the West Bank.

If you pray … Now would be a good time to do so. This is NOT a good situation at all.

**** **** ****

It was a full day of “things to do” here at home. And once again, I missed the parade. I had other things to do, after I had decided to force myself out of bed, because I would rather had slept in, but there were chores to do.

I am quite efficient when it comes to chores and shopping and cleaning all at the same time. I drop the laundry in to wash, i come back and scrub the bathroom and vacuum the apartment. By that time it is time to dry. Once the dryer is started, I have sixty minutes.

I change up and go do my grocery shopping, and return home with 17 minutes to spare. I fold my laundry and have the rest of the day free to do whatever comes to mind.

A common question that is tossed back and forth between Rafa and myself is:

What are you reading ???

I got three new books this week:

  • The Suitors – by Ben Ehrenreich, a retelling of the Odyssey
  • The Bone Collection – by Kathy Reichs – Highly anticipated read
  • Cross Bones – by Kathy Reichs – another Highly anticipated read

This week the news came from the Mission President, after our one young man returned home to Idaho on Monday, that a good number of our Montreal NDG team is being broken up and scattered to all points. My second Elder who was on my team has been moved to Lasalle, at the end of the Green Line. Another Elder from the Mandarin side is going to Ottawa. And one of our Sisters is moving to the Singles Ward, up in Outremont.

I know who is replacing my team at the moment, but I am awaiting introductions and to ask for an appointment to see the Mission President myself. Hopefully we can reach some kind of agreement or consensus. We shall see.

So to be honest, I am in Spiritual Limbo at the moment. I came all this way with a certain team of young men, only to have everything be ripped apart by ending missions and moving people from here to there.

My books from Deseret Books are still in the pike.

Tonight we heard some good wisdom from a visitor from out of town, who is here for the Winter. Instead of fleeing to somewhere warm in semi-retirement, he came here instead. Like he said, Montreal is an infectious city. Once you visit, you WILL return, and most likely STAY.

The numbers of members with MANY YEARS going BACK OUT is a problem. Just as well
The numbers of members with LITTLE TIME going BACK OUT is also a problem.

I’ve spoken of this before. And tonight we heard one reason why old timers go back out and drink/drug again …

They (read: Old Timers) have TOO MANY YEARS, AND NOT ENOUGH DAYS.

They tend to forget, after so long, what the feeling felt like to have their last drink, or what that last hangover felt like, or what their first day sober looked like.

The other side to that coin is this … People who suffer catastrophic illnesses like Cancer or something along those lines, they get sick, they have an operation or chemo or treatment of some sort, some survive and some do not.

It is common for sober people who have been through the mill to one day just say:

Fuck It … And they drink again. After what I have been through A drink isn’t going to kill me. I survived a particular illness so I get a dispensation …

My friend Togani took his 34 year cake from a friend. I saw some friends and arranged for my chip to be gotten and to plan my cake in a couple of weeks.

It was a good day.

 

 

Fort McMurray fire: Alberta airlifts evacuees, readies convoy

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Josh Dehaas, CTVNews.ca
Published Thursday, May 5, 2016 7:32AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, May 5, 2016 10:30PM EDT

Thousands of people trapped in isolated oilfield work camps north of Fort McMurray, Alta., were airlifted to major cities on Thursday, and the province is planning to allow police-escorted convoys of vehicles to pass southbound through the fire-gutted city, starting on Friday morning.

“Since this morning, we’ve been able to have roughly 4,000 people evacuated from the north of the city down to either Edmonton or Calgary,” Premier Rachel Notley told reporters at a briefing Thursday night. “This has been done primarily through the work of industry, bringing in WestJet flights,” she said. Notley added that she hoped 8,000 in total would be evacuated to the cities by the end of the day, with more expected to be flown out Friday.

About two-thirds of Fort McMurray’s 80,000 residents fled south after the mandatory evacuation orders were issued earlier this week. However, about 25,000 went north to oilfield camps, where there is limited food and gasoline.

The only road out of the camps, Highway 63, runs right through Fort McMurray. It remains closed.

Just hours before Notley spoke, RCMP Sgt. Jack Poitras told reporters that the fire was once again jumping the highway, as flames moved south from Fort McMurray toward the community of Anzac.

Chad Morrison, a manager with Alberta Wildfire Prevention and Enforcement, told reporters Thursday evening that the fires around Fort McMurray had burned through an area of about 850 square kilometres. That’s roughly the size of the city of Calgary. He said there were roughly 40 fires still burning, including one that was about three kilometres from Anzac, which was evacuated late Wednesday, along with Gregoire Lake Estates and Fort McMurray First Nation.

Morrison said that flame-spreading winds are expected to “calm down” Friday, but “with a few more hot dry days ahead of us … we’re not out of the woods yet.”

There isn’t any rain in the weather forecast until Sunday.

Notley said she could not offer an update on the number of houses that had been destroyed. She did, however, say that the fire’s “rate of growth” had “slowed,” with firefighters making progress in protecting the Thickwood and Timberlea neighbourhoods, along with the downtown.

A day earlier, she had said an estimated 1,600 structures had been affected.

‘Not a matter of days’

Premier Notley said that it is not possible to offer a timeline on when residents will be able to return home. However she said: “Unfortunately, we do know that it will not be a matter of days.”

Notley said evacuated residents will be given opportunities to visit their homes to assess damage and collect valuables “once it is safe to do so.” She warned residents that they must not return now, adding “The city is not safe.”

“I understand that the Albertans who are affected by this tragedy are scared, and very tired, and very worried about their homes, and what the future holds for them and their families,” she added. “Trust us, that we will have your back.”

Notley said “additional financial supports will be made available to ensure that affected Albertans have the resources and income supports that they need,” and that a “cash card option” is being discussed.

The premier encouraged Fort McMurray residents to re-locate to Edmonton or Calgary, where she said there are more services in place and schools available that can make room for displaced students immediately.

Notley stressed that those who have been evacuated should notify the provincial government by visiting Emergency.Alberta.ca or by contacting the Red Cross, even if they are not planning to use emergency shelters.

“We need more information about who has been evacuated, where they are and what supports you require,” she said.

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson told CTV’s Power Play that about 20,000 people had arrived in the provincial capital already, with about 6,000 more expected by the end of the day.

Only a few thousand had registered with the city’s emergency reception centre, he said. Most are staying with friends, relatives or in hotels, he added. Many others are in the communities of Lac La Biche and Calgary.

‘A few stragglers’

Sgt. Poitras told reporters that RCMP officers had stayed in the nearly-abandoned city to make sure everyone had heeded the mandatory evacuation order.

He said police continued to find “stragglers” as late as 10 or 11 p.m. on Wednesday, and they were escorted out of town.

There were no reports of looting, he said.

Province-wide fire ban in place

Environment Minister Shannon Phillips announced Thursday that a province-wide ban on fires had been put in place, noting “extreme” risk and fears that strained resources could be pulled away from the fight in Fort McMurray.

Phillips also said she wants Albertans to avoid off-highway vehicle use, noting that recreational vehicles have sparked fires in the past. She also asked residents to reconsider their plans for the weekend, and to be extra cautious if they choose to use camping stoves.

Federal Response

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Thursday morning that the federal government will match all individual donations to Red Cross relief efforts for Fort McMurray. “We will make it through this most difficult time together,” Trudeau said in the House of Commons.

Alberta had said Wednesday that it too would match donations.

Looking visibly distraught, interim Official Opposition leader Rona Ambrose thanked Trudeau and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale for their efforts to help her home province.

“It’s a tough day for Albertans but we will persevere,” said Ambrose, who represents the riding of Sturgeon River-Parkland. She vowed that the Conservatives will support Trudeau “every step of the way” in taking practical steps to help Fort McMurray. She also urged the government to make Fort McMurray a priority in its infrastructure spending plans, as the city will need to rebuild its streets and community centres after the flames are put out.

Ambrose started to choke up as she spoke, prompting Trudeau to cross the floor and to give her a hug.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair urged the federal government to move quickly in providing employment insurance for Fort McMurray evacuees. He also hailed the evacuees for their “stoic, strong and poised response” to the crisis.

On Wednesday, Minister Goodale said that Service Canada is looking into “the necessity for income supports as people try to restore their lives and get back to some semblance of normalcy.”

He told CTV’s Power Play Thursday that the federal government had given Alberta “everything it had asked for,” including military planes, cots and bedding, and geomatics support.

Wildrose leader’s home burned

Alberta Opposition Leader Brian Jean, who represents Fort McMurray-Athabasca, is among the many whose homes have been destroyed.

“My home is burnt to the ground but it’s just stuff,” a teary-eyed Jean told reporters on Wednesday. “All my stuff, all my memories. I lost a son last year…” he said.

He added that the “best news” about the fire is there have been no lives lost. “That’s what we’ve got to concentrate on now,” he said.

Jean, who leads the Wildrose Party, later told CTV’s Power Play he is optimistic that the community will be rebuilt better than ever. “We will come back stronger and continue to provide the great economic generation that we do for the rest of the country,” he said.

Worst-affected neighbourhoods

In an update sent out on Wednesday afternoon, officials said 90 per cent of Fort McMurray’s Waterways neighbourhood has been destroyed, while 70 per cent of Beacon Hill has burned and 50 per cent of the homes in the Abasand neighbourhood are gone.

With files from Josh Elliott, The Canadian Press, CTV Alberta Bureau Chief Janet Dirks, Toronto Bureau Reporter Peter Akman, CTV National News Bureau Chief Jill Macychon and CTV Edmonton