Peterborough officials, residents reflect on 15th anniversary of historic flood

Click to play video: '15th Anniversary since the great flood of Peterborough'
15th Anniversary since the great flood of Peterborough
WATCH: City staff say the total amount of water that fell on Peterborough during its historic 2004 flood is a quarter of the amount of water the city usually gets in a year – Jul 15, 2019

Fifteen years after historic flooding hit Peterborough, officials say the city is better prepared to handle such an event in future.

On July 15, 2004, more than 150 millimetres of rain was dumped on parts of the city in less than an hour. The streets of Peterborough were turned into rivers, basements were flooded and underpasses were engulfed.

“You’re at home, and you feel and hear the buckets of water coming down, and you think there’s something wrong with the house or something,” said journalist Ed Arnold, recalling the day of the flood. “It was like — without exaggerating — buckets coming down.”

City staff say the total amount of rain that fell on the city was a quarter of what Peterborough usually gets in a year.

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“Throughout the city, it was anywhere from 160 millimetres to 260 millimetres of rain, which is a lot,” said Ian Boland, senior watershed project manager for the City of Peterborough.

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Sylvia Sutherland, who was mayor of Peterborough at the time, says the majority of the city was built on a floodplain, and on that day, the water rose and had no place to go.

“It was intense activity for two or three days. In a way, they’re still clearing it up because we’re still replacing some of our sewage, some of the pipes under the ground,” said Sutherland.

Sutherland also said a lot of the piping in 2004 was installed at the turn of the 20th century, or even earlier. Since then, she says, the city has invested a lot of money and time into flood-reduction projects and installing new pipes.

Boland added: “Things like cleaning out our sewer on a regular basis. We try to maintain up to 100,000 metres of sewers every year.”

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But through the ordeal, the city pulled together.

“What was really good was how the city pulled together and the assistance and help we got from other communities,” said Sutherland.

Arnold added: “They got together, as Peterborough does, and Peterborough rejuvenated itself. The people of the community really helped out.”

While such a historic flood is rare, it could happen again. If it does, the City of Peterborough says it’s better prepared this time around.


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