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SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. — Heavy rain and overflowing creeks and lakes washed away sections of the Trans-Canada Highway north and south of Wawa, Ont., sent a motel crashing into a sink hole and knocked out phone service.
The northern Ontario community of 3,000 people declared a state of emergency Friday as it dealt with the washed-out roads, stranded motorists and flooding at Lady Dunn Hospital.
“To see the extent of the damage was just surreal,” said Jordan Veldt, who couldn’t get to work Friday at the Wesdome gold mine because of the highway damage.
A home in Michipicoten Harbour, just northeast of Wawa, was washed into Brient Creek, which flows into Lake Superior, about 2 a.m. Friday.
The man and woman who lived there escaped unharmed. They were retrieved by a Wilderness Helicopters pilot later in the morning after the they waved a red flag on the beach near the lake, said Const. Amanda Huff.
Northern Lights Motel, 5 km north Wawa, “is gone,” said Const. Monique Baker of Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) in Sault Ste. Marie.
“It sunk into a sinkhole,” she said.
The 16-room motel, with two chalets, is closed for the season. No injuries were reported.
The Trans-Canada Highway was completely closed north of town at about 8 p.m. Thursday, Const. Huff said, with a pair of washed-out areas to contend with.
Police they don’t know how many motorists have been stranded between flooded areas since Thursday night.
“There’s not much out there,” where the motorists can take refuge, except for their vehicles, she said.
“There are sections of Hwy. 17 (Trans-Canada Highway) that are no longer there. Gone.”
Flooding to the south of the town washed out the highway, too, and that section was closed Friday, as well.
“With the amount of water that has fallen, a lot of the smaller lakes that are higher up that are dammed by beaver dams, those are giving away because of the volume of water that’s pushing against them,” Huff said.
“Normally where you have just a small runoff going through a culvert, these are above capacity for the culverts. That’s what’s causing a lot of the water to erode the road away.”
Hwy. 101 just east of Wawa has reopened, but police caution that, if possible, motorists continue to stay off the roads altogether.
Flooding also knocked out telephone service to approximately 1,000 Bell Canada customers in nearby communities of Godreau, Hawk Junction, Dubreuilville, Missinaubie, Mosher and Oba at about 8 a.m. Friday. 911 service was also down.
To get service back, Bell’s technicians have to get to an area affected by the highway washouts, so there is no timeline when that might happen.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the people in the area, and we hope this situation is remedied without lasting harm,” said Premier Dalton McGuinty in a statement.