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UPDATE: Watermain break floods Oak Bay homes
UPDATE: Residents may find that water is slightly discoloured when initially turning on the tap. If this is the case, please let the water run until it is clear. BC Hydro will be working through the evening to restore power to the affected homes in the 2200 block of Bowker Avenue. Public Works staff and the Fire Department will be working on Bowker Avenue tomorrow to assist residents with their clean up. Please continue to refer to the Oak Bay Municipal Website for the most up to date information. Further inquiries should be directed to the Public Works Department at 250-598-4501. Update: Water levels on Bowker Ave. have subsided, but it will be sometime until the power is back on, according to officials on the site.
A Salvation Army bus was set up near the flood-zone to help stranded residents and hungry workers refuel while they sandbagged and pumped out flooded basements.
By 5 p.m. about 20 people had taken refuge in the Oak Bay Recreation Centre at 1975 Bee St. The district's website reports that staff hopes to have water services to affected homes turned back on by 8 p.m. tonight.
Check the District of Oak Bay's website at oakbay.ca for more information.
Residents needing more information should contact Municipal Clerk Loranne Hilton at 250-598-3311 or after hours, the Oak Bay Fire Department at 250-592-9121.
Update: Water coursing through a broken watermain and into homes on Bowker Ave. was turned off by 3:30 p.m. Nov. 20 and crews are continuing to pump water out of homes in the area. Hydro is also turned off at 11 homes on the street. Affected residents are asked to go to the Oak Bay Recreation Centre at 1975 Bee St.
A major watermain break in the 2000-block of Bowker Ave., between Cadboro Bay Road and Eastdowne Road in Oak Bay has forced the evacuation of approximately 20 homes on Bowker Ave. and has caused some residents to question the effectiveness of the municipality's response to the event.
Cory Heavener, whose mother Diane, lives on the block, told the News that her mother arrived home at 9 a.m. to find the street flooding and water running into her basement. More than two hours later, her basement was completely flooded and, according to Heavener, her mother had still received no information on what she should be doing.
Diane Heavener said that she tried to speak to the Public Works crews to get direction, but was told, "they were too busy" to talk to her. She finally called the Fire Department when she saw that her basement heating oil tank was submerged.
"I'm really angry about the response," said Cory Heavener.
Joe Brooks, the operations manager for Oak Bay Public Works, said that they were notified about the watermain break at about 9 a.m. and immediately attended the scene to find that a 16-inch feeder line that runs through Oak Bay had ruptured. Brooks said crews immediately tried to shut down the line, but the task was complicated by the many feeder lines emanating from the mainline at the site of the break.
By noon, the water was still flowing and staff had been dispatched to Lansdowne Road where a main shutoff valve for the community is located. It was hoped that the flow might be stopped from that location, giving crews time to repair the damage.
Other public works crews worked diligently to sandbag the entire length of the street, trying to hold back the flow.
That move came too late for resident Martin Scaia, whose newly renovated basement is now flooded with four feet of water. "My kids bedrooms are down there and they've lost everything. They have no clothes … nothing. And the neighbour's fuel tank is obviously leaking because you can smell diesel fumes in my basement."
A major concern for residents was that it took more than two hours for the Fire Department to be notified of the event. Cam Thomson, assistant fire chief, was on site and confirmed that the first call came at about 11 a.m., not from Public Works, but from a homeowner whose home was flooding. As the agency responsible for emergency measures in Oak Bay, the Fire Department came to the site and immediately advised residents to evacuate, called in B.C. Hydro to turn off the power to the block and established an emergency shelter at the Oak Bay Recreation Centre.
Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen was also notified after 11:30 a.m. and immediately went to the area to speak to residents and ensure that everything possible was being done to address the situation.
"I'm making sure that every staff person we have is made available to deal with this disaster," said Jensen. "We're certainly going to look into it (the response time for emergency services). People have already spoken to me and I know they're concerned, and I don't blame them."