What can we learn?
And on Monday evening the rain fell, and fell and fell.
Some of the scenes that resulted almost defied belief: streets becoming lakes, properties resembling houseboats, lawns saturated, cars submerged up to door handles, people wading knee-deep in water, roads closed off.
Many of the photographs sent to us by residents and displayed on our Facebook page were not easy to take in at first. You look, are shocked, are full of wonder … and then you remember, this is Barrhead, not some far-off region in world synonymous with flooding. Behind the images are people whose lives have been impacted.
The fact is the town’s drainage network was totally overwhelmed by the amount of rain that fell during a short period on Monday. The concentrated burst caused systems to back up; this must be a worry to the Town which has taken laudable action over the last few years to increase the amount of water they can handle.
Sometimes, however, the forces of nature are so powerful that every effort seems inadequate.
The response must be to try even harder.
We cannot expect our residents to put up with flooded streets and basements every July, the favoured month for torrential downpours. Since Monday there have been persistent reports about a hole in a berm at the back of the Coronet subdivision – one of the worst-hit areas – possibly contributing to the problems. Of course, in the flooding aftermath there will inevitably be speculation about what went wrong and what may have exacerbated an already difficult situation.
Nevertheless these reports should be looked into as part of an overall review. Facts will have to be carefully sifted from suspicions and allegations.
People in the Coronet area, which is full of smart, well-tended properties, deserve reassurance that everything possible is being done to prevent a recurrence of Monday’s unwanted drama.
Beyond the town, the southwest division of Barrhead County was badly hit as the Paddle River burst its banks, recreating scenes from 2011. Steps were taken to bolster the dikes, yet aerial photos last week show vast swathes of land under water again.
One of those affected is farmer Leonard Schmidt, who wants to know why the dikes in his area were not built high enough. What rankles him further is that effective flood protection measures were installed just two miles south of his farm.
Schmidt also questions why the Paddle River Dam was not closed earlier. We too share his concerns.
One can only imagine what it is like to wake up to find your barley fields under water. One foot of water or four feet, it doesn’t matter. The whole crop is ruined.
As Barrhead County councillor Marvin Brade pointed out, one of the difficulties facing farmers is that there is no provision in crop insurance that covers flooding.
When reflecting on last week’s events it would be churlish to ignore the positives: Main Street emerged unscathed, partly thanks to those who shovelled drains, ensuring they weren’t blocked; some stores put their merchandise out of harm’s way and placed sandbags against doorways; and Public Works and fire crews worked until the early hours helping to remove water from the streets.
Perhaps most impressive was the community spirit displayed in areas like the Coronet subdivision where people helped each other get through the crisis.
As Barrhead moves forward to face future challenges, we should all be a little more humble after last week’s storm. If nothing else, it should make us appreciate our limitations.
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