Displaced Oak Bay residents say firefighters and B.C. Hydro crews were not called in early enough Tuesday to help with massive flooding on Bowker Avenue after a water main burst.
About a dozen houses were evacuated and several suffered extensive damage from the sudden rush of water that filled basements with nearly a metre of water.
Public works crews were replacing a fire hydrant where the end of Bowker meets Eastdowne Road about 9 a.m. when a valve broke.
Water levels rose quickly covering the entire street. By noon it reached the wheel wells of several cars parked by the curb and turned front lawns into urban swamps. Crews used sandbags to contain the rapidly moving water.
Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen has called for an expedited analysis of how his staff handled the broken water line and the ensuing flooding that caused tens of thousands of dollars in damage.
Ive asked our chief administrative officer to find out what happened to ensure when were doing similar work, this doesnt happen again, he said. I also asked ... Was our response appropriate and were the right people called in at the right time?
Residents phoned the fire department around 11:20 a.m. and were upset that public works staff had not made the same call sooner.
Oak Bay operations manager Joe Brooks said he was ready to ask for assistance once his crew realized the situation was getting unmanageable.
Its not normal procedure for us to phone the fire department when we have a water main break, he said. Once we realized we had a problem there, more crews were notified to bring in sand bags as well as the fire department for extra resources.
B.C. Hydro said it received a call from the fire department to shut off power at about 11:50 a.m., well after basements had flooded.
My biggest concern has been the total lack of leadership initially around coordinating this, said Cory Heavener, who came to help her mother and had not heard from officials until she called Oak Bay municipal hall.
What about the safety of the residents? Should we be evacuating? Should we turn our electricity off? How serious is this? We knew nothing, Heavener said.
By 1 p.m. the water level had started to recede, so people could walk a narrow strip of pavement down the centre of Bowker. As crews dropped more sand bags to contain the water, boxes of Christmas decorations floated on about 60 centimetres of water in the basement of Lorraine Olsons house.
I think its up to the bed in the other room, she yelled to her son, who was wading through the frigid waters. This place is just a disaster. The backyard is totally submerged.
Public works crews drove through neighbouring streets shutting off water until the leak finally stopped around 3 p.m. They dug up a portion of the intersection to replace the broken valve and the water supply was turned back on around 8 p.m.
During the emergency, a reception area for evacuees was set up at Oak Bay Recreation Centre. Residents from at least seven houses had to spend the night away from their homes.
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