Hannah Walowski watched in disbelief as water seeped into the basement of her childhood home in Fort McMurray, Alta., on Monday.
“That’s when panic kind of started ensuing in all of us,” she told Global News on Tuesday.
Her family started packing up and salvaging what they could as the threat of water escalated. Flooding was caused by ice jams and spring runoff from the Athabasca and Clearwater rivers, according to the Alberta government.
“The floor in my room was cracking and building up because the water was coming under the flooring and pushing it up,” Walowski said. “That was kind of sad to see my room that I grew up in get destroyed… After that, water just kept rushing in. It was up to our knees.”
That’s when she recorded a TikTok video, which had nearly 40,000 views by Tuesday night. Initially, Walowski felt uneasy about posting it but said the comments have been supportive.
“They’re like, ‘You guys can’t catch a break.’ A lot of people don’t even know that this is going on,” Walowski said.
The most striking visual was seeing the treehouse her dad built submerged.
“[It] was just a very surreal kind of moment,” she said.
“Having all the memories and stuff underwater, it’s like, well, what now?”
When her parents phoned on Monday at around 5 p.m., they told her the water was up to the top of the basement stairs.
“Even in the flood that happened in 1997, my parents were in that house and it flooded — the water only came up to like maybe the fifth stair in their basement,” Walowski said.
Her parents have lived in the same house for more than 25 years; the building survived the 2016 fire with smoke damage.
Walowski’s initial reaction to the flood was “not again,” citing flashbacks of that last big natural disaster.
“The anxiousness and stuff started coming in about are we going to get evacuated again?” she said.
“I feel like this is just another rock thrown in my face.”
Things damaged in the flood included sentimental items belonging to her late sister.
“That was one that kind of hit home. That’s stuff you can’t really replace,” Walowski said.
The 18-year-old returned home from Kelowna, B.C., at the end of March to stay with her parents during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now with the flood, Walowski and her cat are staying at a friend’s place in Timberlea — an area that is not under a mandatory evacuation order.
The pandemic adds another layer of stress and uncertainty, she said.
“I just wanted to go home; that’s where I feel safe… and it was just hard not being able to go to the place where you just feel most comfortable.”
Anxiety is the main emotion bubbling up.
For the most recent updates on both voluntary and mandatory evacuations in the Fort McMurray area, please visit the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo’s website.