STU student describes seeing hometown under water

Fredericton's flood waters (pictured here) are rising, but they haven't reached the level of flood waters in Perth-Andover. A mandatory evacuation was issued this past weekend. (Tom Bateman/AQ)

Katrina Barclay didn’t get a lot of sleep this past weekend.

She was up all night Saturday looking at pictures of her hometown under water.

To her, the images are unimaginable, and came as a shock when she logged on to her Facebook page late Friday after not being online all day long.

Landmarks from home, from the hospital to churches, schools and the library, have all been flooded.

Buildings aren’t the only casualties – Barclay said she isn’t sure the village was able to move its medical records before the flooding began.

“Perth-Andover may be a town where no one, according to medical files, exists any more,” Barclay said in an email.

The St. Thomas University student’s family has been lucky so far – they live five minutes outside town on a small hill – but that’s not the story elsewhere in the village.

Water levels rose above flood levels because of an ice jam in the St. John River, causing residents in low-lying areas in Perth-Andover and Tobique First Nation to evacuate.

As of press time Sunday, the village was still under a mandatory evacuation order and a state of local emergency.

The provincial government launched a recovery program for flood victims on Sunday, promising water testing, electrical reconnection and financial help.

Flooding is not new to people in Perth-Andover.

The village is divided by a river, with what used to be Perth on one side and Andover on the other. They’re connected by a bridge.

Every spring, the village floods a bit, but the worst that happens are a few road closures or a missed day of school, Barclay said.

In 1987, the town was divided by two bridges, until a flood destroyed one of them.

“The officials, and the townspeople have all said that the flood this year is worse than the one in 1987.”

After seeing the pictures on Friday, Barclay tried to get a hold of her family and friends. It was 10 p.m. before she reached anyone.

When she did, she heard stories of people stranded in convenience stores and families separated, unable to reach one another through the flood waters.

Sharon, the mother of Barclay’s friend Brittany, was forced to leave home but the fire department couldn’t reach her.

“She had to cross an ice-covered log over the brook and climb up a very steep hill to get to dry land.”

Barclay reached her grandmother 30 minutes later, who lives in seniors’ apartments by a trailer park in the village.

Living one street away from the flood zone, she was debating whether to stay or go.

“The major problem they were experiencing was the power being shut off. They had a few elderly women in the building who are over the age of 90 and get very cold at night.

“They could not be moved to the manor across the road because it was full with its regular patients as well as the local hospital’s patients, since the hospital was evacuated and flooded.”

Once she reached her parents, she found out her mother was stranded on the other side of the river, unable to reunite with Barclay’s father until Saturday.

Her mother is the vice-principal of Southern Victoria High School and had to stay at school until all students got home safe. By that time, they had shut down access to the bridge.

It would normally be a 15-minute drive home from the school, but it took three hours through back roads on Saturday for her mother to make it back.

Once reunited, Barclay’s father went out and found propane so they could use a barbecue to cook.

Barclay’s family has been through an ordeal, but she knows they’re not facing the worst.

“Not all families are this lucky and not all homes are as safe as mine.”

As of press time, the provincial Emergency Measures Organization said the water levels are below flood level and continue to recede.

But that hasn’t calmed the fears of many people in Perth-Andover, who fear the flooding could only get worse, Barclay said.

“Not all of the dams upriver have unleashed their water yet, which means Perth-Andover could start to recover [just to] repeat what has [been] happening these past few days.”

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