If humans worked in hives, it would look like the TSC parking lot in Rockland on Sunday: organized chaos.
Nearly 50 pickup trucks are lined out of the lot and onto Chamberland street. As they pull into the lot, Nichole stands by the A&W to direct who’s going where. Residents around Clarence-Rockland call or text her with what they need—sump pumps, sandbags, volunteers—she then relays that information to the truck drivers.
Once they know where they’re going, they inch their way towards the heart of the hive—a large sandpile with where more than 100 people are shovelling, carrying, and tying sandbags.
Standen is one of the keepers of the hive. He tells trucks when and where to pull up to be filled with sandbags.
When it comes to delivering bags to Voisine Street—one of the worst-hit locations—he calls it a bit of “a risky operation.”
“We’re taking the loaders, filling the buckets with the bags, taking them over there, unloading them onto the boats, then the guys are driving by in the boats.”
Voisine street is across the highway from the parking lot. Fishing boats-turned delivery service pace up and down what used to be pavement. Walls of white and orange sandbags hug the exterior of the houses.
Standen is tall, bearded; he’s a retired military police officer and wears a faded blue Vancouver Police baseball cap. This type of situation isn’t new to him.
“I’ve been in places like Manitoba for Red River; the ice storm here, we did patrols when the power was out.”
He’s originally from a town 10 hours away (he doesn’t say where exactly), but now lives in Forest Hill in Rockland. He says some people from his hometown offered to drive down and help.
The site is already buzzing, more people aren’t needed.
“We don’t need the army, we need some gas cards to pay these people that are paying out of pocket,” he says.
He’s been volunteering since Wednesday. Since then, he’s seen groups like legion members, girl scouts, and the CIH hockey academy pick up shovels.
But, it wasn’t always easy getting everyone organized.
“It’s all burps and hiccups until such time that you figure out what works with the people,” he says.
Things are finally running smoothly, and Standen calls it “a thing of beauty.”
Now Sunday, people are still furiously filling sandbags, but any hope of prevention is gone.
“I wouldn’t say we’re really winning a battle but we’re preventing any further severe damage.” he says before yelling “TRUCK IN!”
About 100 people hack away at the sandpile. Josée Bertrand and her two kids, Julien (8) and Mélodie (11) are a particularly efficient trio standing atop the pile.
While the family isn’t affected directly by the flood—they live in Cumberland—it’s easy to sympathize.
“If I was in the same boat, I’d appreciate getting help,” says Bertrand.
She holds a seed bag open for Mélodie to dump sand into. Once filled, Josée twists the bags tight and secures it with a zip tie. Julien is there waiting, ready to push the bag down the slope.
The family drives into Rockland twice a week to bring Mélodie and Julien to their scout troops.
“They see how it’s affecting people,” says Bertrand. “This morning when we came, I think it hit closer to home when they saw everyone helping; people in boats, others in water up to their waist.” She pauses, “It’s serious.”
I lend a hand to Mélodie, so Josée can help Julien. As I drop another full bag, I turn to see Melodie there ready with her shovel and another empty bag in hand. No complaints.
As for Julien, he’s a little frustrated when he sees another truckload of sand coming in; not because it’s more work, but because the thunderous rumble of the tailgate hurts his ears.
If you were to just show up at the parking lot wanting to help, Debborah Evraire would be one to tell you where to go.
She’s driven in from Orleans Friday, Saturday and now Sunday to help organize the volunteer effort.
“It’s very, very key that your volunteers remain inspired and that means creating a team environment, making sure they feel appreciate, making sure they’re well fed,” she says.
So far that hasn’t been a problem.
“You’ve got local businesses donating food.” she says. “We’ve had individual people go and buy hundreds of burgers yesterday and drop them off, we’ve had people drop off ten pizzas.”
For people still looking to help, Evraire says they should check the Rockland FLOOD Relief 2017 facebook page.
When it comes to sandbags, Evraire says the idea the bags are “late” isn’t quite right.
“We’ve been going through the bags so fast, because of the efficiency of this site,” she says. “When you go through 6,200 bags and fill them in an hour and a half, that’s amazing.”
Her answer for why she thinks people have stepped up is plain and simple.
“It’s a community that needs our help.”