Toronto Islands residents are bracing for potential flooding after a shoreline hazard warning was issued for areas along Lake Ontario and the islands Tuesday.
“We’re a bit more relaxed because we’ve been through this once before and know what to do, but it still creates a certain level of anxiety for us,” said Ward’s Island resident Inese Gravlejs.
The 2017 flooding resulted in Toronto’s islands closing for nearly three months along with all their local businesses and waterfront areas. The Island Public and Natural Science School also had to relocate to the mainland.
Lake Ontario’s water level is currently approaching 75.5 metres above sea level, just barely under the water level during the flooding of the Toronto Islands in April 2017, which reached a high of 75.93.
“Properties along the shoreline and the Toronto Islands which experienced flooding during the 2017 event could begin to experience flood impacts as the water level in Lake Ontario continues to rise,” said the warning from Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.
“We’re quite nervous, to be honest,” said Gravlejs’s husband, Mike French. “We just don’t know how bad it’s going to get . . .you see the water levels coming up and up and there’s really not much you can do about it.”
The two residents, both members of the island’s Emergency Preparedness Committee to monitor water levels and update residents on flood mitigation efforts, felt the effects of the flooding in 2017 when the piping and ventilation in their home was destroyed by water damage.
Gravlejs said the damage cost them approximately $1,000 in repair work, but they consider themselves among “the lucky ones” given they live closer to the centre of the island and away from the shoreline.
“We were lucky, to be honest. It’s much more dangerous for the people that live on the periphery,” Gravlejs said.
The flooding cost the city’s parks, forestry and recreation division at least $8.45 million.
Since then, the city has implemented a number of measures to mitigate flood damage on the island, including new drainage systems and approximately 20 industrial water pumps.
“The island is open, it’s business as usual, and the residents’ property remains safe, but we’re monitoring the situation closely,” said city spokesperson Brad Ross. “The issue today is the wind and the high waves, so we’re reminding residents to be cautious if they’re near a shoreline and to keep back from waves.”
Ross said the islands have begun sandbagging and are making materials available for residents if needed.
He said the city has no plans to close the island at the moment.
The International Lake Ontario — St. Lawrence River Board is forecasting that lake water levels are expected to keep rising until late May or early June.
The conservation authority also recommends that people take caution around the lakes shoreline areas and avoid any areas experiencing erosion or flooding.
With files from Raneem Alozzi
Jacob Lorinc is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @jacoblorinc