A family that had to evacuate their home along Rivière Rouge at the Bell Falls dam wants to go home.
Jamie Lalande and Steve Mkrdejyan and their four children had to leave instantly late Thursday afternoon when high water levels on the river began to threaten the safety of the dam.
Unlike many evacuees who were airlifted out by Sûreté du Québec (SQ) helicopter, the family was permitted to get into its minivan and drive out.
Lalande said it was hard to leave her wedding rings behind. She and Mkrdejyan have four children, including one still in diapers, and there was no time to take any of those, either.
The family is currently staying in a soft-top tent trailer in a friend’s yard in Alexandria.
“We can’t go anywhere,” said Lalande.
She explained that that they cannot make an insurance claim because there was no actual flood damage to their home, and they are unable to obtain a proof of evacuation document from the SQ or Hydro-Québec, which owns the Bell Falls dam.
However, Lalande said local authorities in Grenville-sur-la Rouge have been helpful.
“The municipality has been very good, they’re doing everything within their powers,” she explained on Monday, outside the municipal building in Calumet.
Lalande and Mkrdejyan wish they could be back on their property because that is where their home-based baking business, called Rouge River Bakery, is located. They bake bread in outdoor ovens and sell it at shops and farmer’s markets locally in Québec and Ontario.
Mkrdejyan said the evacuation has been a financial challenge for them because they recently invested money in new equipment for their business and no new income is coming in because they cannot bake and sell bread right now.
“If I was up there, I’d be able to feed people,” said Lalande.
Before they had to evacuate, the couple took some of their homemade pizza dough to friends on Île Bizard outside Montréal, so they had food while trying to hold back floodwaters in that neighbourhood.
The family, who live a mostly off-the-grid lifestyle on their rural property, also had to leave behind their dogs and chickens.
The children, who attend Grenville Elementary School, were, however able to go to class on Monday.