/Minden 'cautiously optimistic' as rain continues
Over the weekend the Township of Minden Hills announced the closure of Dennison Road after it was washed out following heavy rain. The dead end road is located several kilometres from downtown Minden off of Horseshoe Lake Road./DARREN LUM Staff

Minden 'cautiously optimistic' as rain continues

By Sue Tiffin
Friday afternoon, eight hours into a day of volunteering in the rain to
help residents cope with flood damage, with no idea of when he would
pack it in later that night, John McNeil pulled his truck into a spot
near Anson Street where a thin wall of sandbags was being breached by
the rising Gull River.
Trakosas, a fellow volunteer, stepped into the puddling water alongside
him, pulling a plastic tarp McNeil had brought along over the wall to
help the barrier offer greater protection from potential flooding. 
it’s another laundry day,” Trakosas joked, keeping spirits up while the
men worked. That friendly and nonchalant tone worked its way through
town, lightening the mood of residents, township workers and volunteers
while they stacked sandbags – more than 17,000 in total – in case the
Gull River reached the same levels as it did in 2017 or 2013, when
states of emergency were also declared.
year is the first that McNeil could really pitch in, as in previous
years he was driving a transport on highways far from town when
disastrous flooding affected homes, businesses and roads throughout the
village of Minden. A public Facebook page he started to help drivers
monitor road situations in cottage country during inclement weather
helped him keep an eye on areas of need, and when Minden’s roads began
to wash out with high water and the township declared a state of
emergency on April 24, he was one of the first volunteers on the scene
to begin filling sandbags at the community centre. That Tuesday night he
posted on his cottage country road watch social media page, asking for
help, and on Wednesday a small crowd joined in.
were 30 or 40 people with trucks and everything up here, trailers, all
kinds of stuff, it was just a community full-fledged jump-in,” he said.
Besides Minden residents and help from neighbouring townships within the
county, McNeil said volunteers came from Fenelon Falls, Coboconk and 
Vankoughnet – one person even reportedly ordered sandbags to be sent to
the township when they couldn’t be here in person. The Minden Food Bank
set up shop in the Minden Hills Community Centre for several hours each
day, offering food and hot beverages to anyone volunteering, dealing
with the floodwaters in their homes, or working on the roads. Businesses
– including Tim Hortons, Foodland and Home Hardware – offered coffee or
supplies to help.
total, McNeil said he estimated hundreds of people were shovelling sand
into bags and distributing them to households along the flood plain
last week, including Archie Stouffer students, Boy Scouts and Girl
Guides. Homeowners had been trying to offer money for the help, but
McNeil – who in many cases was offering his cellphone number and a
promise to pull together help regardless of the time of day if needed –
said that was unnecessary.
good story is that everybody is here helping, to help each other,” he
said. “That’s the best story, that’s the number one story – community
pulling together, even people from out of the community. The internet
travels fast so as soon as I call for help [on the public Facebook
page], bang, people are here.”
decrease in water levels on the Gull River over the past several days
offered a reprieve for volunteers and homeowners who were fighting back
approaching water. Water levels were at 271.3 metres above sea level as
of 10 a.m. on May 1, a number that reached 271.6 last week, according to
Mayor Brent Devolin. In 2017, that same measurement was just under 272
metres above sea level, and in 2013, though the measurement system
wasn’t in place at that time, Devolin said the levels probably reached
about 272.4.
said the events of 2013 and 2017 have allowed for a “good historic
baseline” of recorded reference points and pictures, so that when water
levels get to a certain point, the township has a good idea of how it
will impact nearby properties. 
other thing that happened this year, from an operational point of view,
that is really good is [the TSW] used to have to wait every day to get
the number from us, off the stick,” he said. “Well, they have an
automated reader on it now, so they read it every hour. So if there’s a
weather system above it or they do what they call logging operations …
when they’re taking the logs in and out of the dams to be more precise,
then they more quickly can measure the results. I’ve been on the call
with them enough years with them now, sometimes with the weather it’ll
have less or more of an effect than they thought, so it’s like a fine
tune dial … so that’s been a huge improvement even from 2017.”
a press release issued April 30 at 12:30 p.m., the township reminded
residents that despite decreasing or stable water levels, more
precipitation was forecast. The flood warning issued by the MNRF is, at
time of press, in place until May 3. 
five-day forecast is calling for 35 to 55 mm of precipitation and may
result in increased water levels in the Gull River Watershed,” read the
press release. “The watershed is expected to remain stable today,
followed by an increase dueto the anticipated rainfall and as operations
continue in order to maintain capacity in the reservoir lakes above
if it’s 55, if it’s spread over three days, that’s less problematic,”
said Devolin on May 1. “If the lion’s share of that comes in a couple of
hours, what I call a monsoon, then obviously that’s more challenging.
But the main thing is, you know yesterday, people might have been
tempted with the sun to start stacking up the sandbags and putting them
away. I got on the radio and said, don’t get in a hurry. I think we’ll
be through this event and if it works out how I think it is, I think by
next week we’ll know where we’re at.”
said by the beginning of next week if the weather improves, some roads
that have been closed will be reopened if the watershed returns to
regular springtime levels and the state of emergency could be lifted. 
“I’m cautiously optimistic,” said Devolin. “What I think we’ve all learned in this … nobody’s crystal ball is much good.”   
the state of emergency was declared last week, it has been recommended
that property owners who have experienced flooding in the past make use
of sandbags and consider self-evacuation of family and pets. Devolin
said the orange sandbags are UV-resistant and could be stored and kept
Minden Hills township recommended residents follow mindenhills.ca for updates, and directed those with questions about insurance coverage to the Insurance Bureau of Canada at ibc.ca/on/
insurance policies do not include basic coverage for damage due to
overland flood or sewer backup as these services are often provided as
optional or additional services,” reads a separate April 30 press
release. “Residents are encouraged to contact their home insurance
provider to check on the status of their home coverage and to obtain
more information on these services.”
the township encouraged residents, business owners, farmers and
non-profit organizations who had experienced flooding on their
properties to register with the township by calling 705-286-1260, ext.
211 or after business hours 1-888-856-3247.