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New UNB study to look at the impact of historic 2018 flooding

WATCH: Close to a year after the region was swept by historic flood conditions, a professor at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John is looking to speak with people who were affected. Silas Brown brings us that story.

Close to a year after the region was swept by historic flood conditions, a professor at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John is looking to speak with people who were affected.

“I’m looking to get people’s experiences with the spring flooding in 2018,” said Julia Woodhall-Melnik, an assistant professor in the UNB Department of Social Sciences.

“What helped them, what they were able to do help rebuild, to get out of their homes, to get back into their homes and what they could have used to benefit them so if things like this happen again we can be a little bit more proactive in terms of what we know residents need.”

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READ MORE: Maugerville flood victims living in trailers as rebuilding continues more than 7 months later

Woodhall-Melnik, whose primary research area is homelessness, says she became very interested in climate change while on maternity leave with her second son.

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Now she’s trying to unite her area of research with her interest in climate change.

“I started to look at all of the natural disasters that were happening and I thought, ‘This is really a form of homelessness,'” she said.

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“We’re very connected to our homes and what happens when we can’t be there anymore? What happens to us? What do we experience and, you know, it’s not the same as experiencing homelessness because of poverty or things like that but it really is a big change in people’s lives.”

Julia Woodhall-Melnik, an assistant professor in the UNB Department of Social Sciences, is launching a new study on the historic flooding in 2018.
Julia Woodhall-Melnik, an assistant professor in the UNB Department of Social Sciences, is launching a new study on the historic flooding in 2018. Silas Brown/Global News

The study is being funded by the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, an organization looking to find ways to mitigate the impact of climate change-driven disasters and consists of two parts. Woodhall-Melnik says she has already spoken with various Saint John officials about the response to the flood and now is looking to hear from those in the community who were affected.

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Tom Allaby is one of those people. The home he shares with his wife on the banks of the Kennebecasis River has been in the family for almost 60 years.

“Every year we’re in a situation where flooding occurs on our property … This year it just seemed to happen so quickly,” he said.

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WATCH: Global News coverage of the record-breaking floods in New Brunswick

Allaby’s cellar, where his electrical panel and hot water tank were, was filled with water, which reached the floor joists of the main house. As the water rose Allaby had to have the power shut off.

After extensive repairs, where the heating and electrical systems were replaced and relocated to guard against future flooding, Allaby and his wife are back home, but the impacts are long-lasting.

“It’s devastating, your mind is just rushing a hundred miles an hour trying to determine what do you do… When you look around and your furniture and whatever — we have a lot of older pieces that belonged to my wife’s parents and grandparents and you just hate the thought of losing those things. So emotionally it was very difficult,” he said.

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“The second thing becomes, you know, the inconvenience. Your whole life is interrupted. We were out of our house for approximately three months… That was a long time to have your life interrupted.”

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