Sask. community floods called worst in history

Rescuing people, belongings | Melville, Sask., residents work together to help others to safety

Melville, Sask. — Better to be safe than sorry, was Doug Schofer’s thinking as he watched water pour over the Melville reservoir at 7:30 p.m. June 30.

“It had breached in two spots and the entire dike was just steady seepage overtop,” said the grain farmer and railroad engineer. “We made the decision to evacuate.”

Over the next several hours, using his tandem grain truck and with help from friends and family, contents of the basement were taken to a neighbour’s place.

Tractors, an air seeder, snowmobiles and other equipment were moved to higher ground.

Schofer said he quickly learned they needed to prioritize their belongings.

“The computer, books, files and photos went first. Then furniture and clothes after,” he said.

Altogether about a dozen people helped load the truck and then unload it. Another 10 pitched in to sandbag the water well, basement windows and power box.

About midnight, Schofer, his wife and two children arrived at his father-in-law Irvine Gulash’s home near Melville.

“There’s no sense rushing back,” said Gulash about a return home.

“Safety is the big thing.”

Melville was one of the first communities to declare a local state of emergency last week. As a counsellor for the Rural Municipality of Cana, Gulash described the flood as the worst ever in the community’s 110 year history.

Most patients at St. Peter’s Hospital were evacuated more than an hour’s drive to St. Anthony’s Hospital in Esterhazy July 1.

Sheryle Roberts’s Parkinson’s disease has confined her to a wheelchair.

On June 30 her husband Brian said the water had come up and over the road to their farm near Bangor. After contacting a rural municipal counsellor and reeve it was decided to be safe and evacuate Sheryle from the farm.

At 4:30 p.m. July 1, the RM’s front-end loader plowed through the water to the house’s front ramp.

When the wheelchair wouldn’t safely fit in the bucket, one of Brian’s homemade horse-drawn parade wagons was hooked to the loader and Sheryle’s wheelchair was strapped in.

“That’s what we sat in and we had to have her feet in a garbage bag because the water was higher than the bottom of the wagon,” said Roberts. “That’s how deep it was.”

Soon after arriving in Melville she was taken by ambulance to Esterhazy.

Roberts was able to bring Sheryle home July 3. Although the road was still flooded, he manoeuvred his pickup through the cow pastures from high spot to high spot.

He said the flood was also a challenge for his 90 cow-calf pairs.

“They’re going through an awful lot of water to get from one pasture to another for feeding,” he said.

For the Schofer’s, their home became an island but it was left untouched.

“The water was right up to about 10 feet from the house but we had power all the time and the pumps kept up and the basement was dry,” he said.

His farmland has not faired as well and he hasn’t been able to get a close look at his green peas, canola and hard red spring wheat.

“Damage is easily 25 percent,” he said.

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