Windsor Residents To Face Flooding Alone

Paul Davis trucks, from the GTA, appeared at City Hall on 4 September 2017, in the wake of the flooding in the city.Photo by Robert Tuomi.

Paul Davis trucks, from the GTA, appeared at City Hall on 4 September 2017, in the wake of the flooding in the city.
Photo by Robert Tuomi.

(WINDSOR, ON) – Is your home insurance coming up for renewal? Do you live in Windsor? If the answer was yes to both questions, then you better have a close look at your policy when it arrives.

Property owners in Windsor are finding that their coverage for flood damage has been dropped due to too many claims in the wake of recent storms in the area. And, it is not a matter of increased rates. The coverage has been canceled outright.

Surprisingly, however, residents are not holding the insurance companies responsible.

“I can’t say that I blame Economical Insurance,” said Ward 6 resident Beverley Vansickle-Holmes. “They can only cover so many times. Our flood insurance was dropped. No increase, just no flood insurance. No point going elsewhere.”

Vansickle-Holmes and her husband, John Holmes, experienced three severe flooding incidents in the past four years. They are dreading the next heavy rainfall.

“No one should have to live in their homes fearing the next rainfall,” said Vansickle-Holmes. “The city has definitely affected our quality of life by not addressing the problems.”

Piles of garbage sit at the curb on Westcott Road in the wake of flooding which occurred in Windsor on 29 Auugust 2017. Reports indicate that the special garbage pickup over the weekend of 1-3 September did not happen as planned.Photo by Ian Shalapata.

Piles of garbage sit at the curb on Westcott Road in the wake of flooding which occurred in Windsor on 29 Auugust 2017. Reports indicate that the special garbage pickup over the weekend of 1-3 September did not happen as planned.
Photo by Ian Shalapata.

For over 40 years, there hasn’t been a single issue with flooding, but now she has no question with whom the responsibility lays for the flooding and future mitigation.

“All insurance companies will be doing the same for Windsor because our city has failed to maintain the infrastructure to handle all the new homes and construction,” Van Sickle-Holmes suggested. According to hydro-meteorologist Matt Kelsch, with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, CO, a paved surface creates rain water run-off 10 to 20 times greater than the same area of grassed land.

Even residents in the Forest Glade area of the city have had their coverage canceled, even though they didn’t experience flooding. Insurance companies share information via the Habitation Information Tracking System, and if there is flooding near where you live, your coverage could also be at risk.

With Windsor basements continuing to flood and home owners being shut out of insurance coverage, interim mayor Drew Dilkens continues to advocate spending on sports tourism.Photo by Joanne Brown.

With Windsor basements continuing to flood and home owners being shut out of insurance coverage, interim mayor Drew Dilkens continues to advocate spending on sports tourism.
Photo by Joanne Brown.

In response to a letter from Holmes to Ward 6 councilor Jo Anne Gignac, city engineer Mark Winterton offered that Windsor will be studying the flooding issue.

“As you may be aware, the City of Windsor is undertaking a comprehensive Sewer Master Plan to look at the entire sewer system in Windsor and recommend actions which will reduce the risk of basement flooding,” Winterton wrote.

Holmes wants the city to place a moratorium on future development until the study has been completed.

The review by the city will take approximately a year and a half to complete. Over the course of the next 18 months, and then the ensuing time before any recommendations can be acted upon, it’s conceivable that 3 or four more flooding events could take place. Vansickle-Holmes is concerned with the amount of time which will be wasted before any relief is forthcoming.

The question is, why has it taken Windsor so long to commence a study?

The Town of Tecumseh completed a Sewer Master Plan in 2002 with an update in 2008. After flooding in 2011, the town hired Dillon Consulting to make recommendations for improvements to the sewage collection system.

“It is always important in any catastrophic occurrence to look at what ‘we’ can do better,” said Holmes. “The only response from the city was to blame the residents with no acknowledgement that the city could have done better.”

Water damage in a basement in the Riverside area of Windsor on 29 August 2017. The homeowners have lived in the house for 47 years, but have experienced flooding three times in only the past five.Photo by Beverley Vansickle Holmes.

Water damage in a basement in the Riverside area of Windsor on 29 August 2017. The homeowners have lived in the house for 47 years, but have experienced flooding three times in only the past four.
Photo by Beverley Vansickle Holmes.

In addition to the inconvenience and health risks involved with flooding, and in conjunction with the cancellation of insurance coverage, another issue arises. How can property owners recoup the value of their homes if they live in a flood zone and cannot get coverage? What will happen to their property values? Who would want to buy a home in such a situation?

“We have taken all the necessary steps, backwater valve, sump pump with back-up to pump outside, and disconnected all downspouts,” Holmes said. “We are now facing serious financial exposure and a significant erosion of our property value.”

In the meantime, Windsor residents will have keep an eye on the weather and hope for the best.

The Grand Marais Drain near Dougall Avenue and West Grand Boulevard on 29 September 2016.Photo by Patrick Redko.

The Grand Marais Drain near Dougall Avenue and West Grand Boulevard on 29 September 2016.
Photo by Patrick Redko.

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About the Author

Ian Shalapata
Ian Shalapata is the owner and publisher of Square Media Group. He covers politics, the police beat, community events, the arts, sports, and everything in between. His imagery and freelance contributions have appeared in select publications and for organizations in Canada and the United States. Contact Ian with story ideas.