They were allowed to go back to their homes last Friday, but while they were being temporarily housed in the Souris Valley Aquatic and Leisure Centre last week, Lisa Caul, Corey Hann and Thomas Bourgeois found the experience interesting. Even with the stressful knowledge that their homes might be under water at any time, the three managed to retain a degree of confidence or hope that their modular homes in the Willow Parks Greens were going to be saved from the worst part of the flood waters that raged downstream from the Boundary and Rafferty Dam reservoirs.
Bourgeois said he was one of the early registrants at the reception centre set up in the leisure centre on the night of June 19 and early morning hours of June 20.
"At first we thought some of the residents were going to be evacuated on Saturday (June 18) said Hann.
But when they saw the fire trucks and other emergency vehicles pulling into the mobile home park on Sunday, where just over 400 people live, they knew that the full scale mobilization effort was in effect.
"I think the handicapped people and those who needed more help were evacuated first," said Hann. "So we just grabbed some stuff, mostly clothes, that's about all we could bring. We had a truck available so that helped. We put some of our more valuable stuff up high in the house and then got out, and then hoped it would turn out right," said Hann.
Caul, Hann's mother, said she saw the utility crews turning off the power and other services and she said she and her son thought maybe the evacuation notice would be just for one night. She said power was restored within the next day, meaning that food in refrigerators and freezers might have been saved, but maybe the order had been issued to cut it again as the flood waters continued to increase during the early part of the week.
"We were allowed to go back for awhile to pick up things on Monday," said Hann.
The military cots that were provided for those who had to sleep at the leisure centre that first night "were a little stiff, but we managed," said Bourgeois.
"The generosity was just outstanding," said Caul.
"I was impressed that we were even offered some counselling to help us work through things," said Bourgeois.
"There was a lot of empathy being shown around here that first night," said Hann.
Caul said that many local citizens showed up with equipment or materials to help out, but were told that only new products could be accepted.
Hann said he started to keep track of how many people ended up registering at the reception centre, even if they weren't going to stay there, and lost count shortly after 600.
That first night, 40 people bunked down in the leisure centre, in and around the Lignite Miners Centre while a food service area was established near the entrance to Spectra Place, the new arena and events complex down the hall.
When they agreed to the interview as they lingered outside the Miners Centre on Thursday morning, (media members were not allowed into the reception area), the trio said there had been just 23 to 27 still sleeping overnight. The others had found alternative accommodations while they waited for the all clear signal that would allow them to go home. That came on Friday.
The two men said they had been working in the oil patch and related industries, but because of the recent wet conditions, there wasn't much going on there. Caul, who also has a 14-year-old daughter attending school, said she and her husband, Garland Hann, were coming and going from the centre along with their daughter and were waiting for the opportunity to get back home.
"It's something we'll always remember," she said with a quiet smile.
"Hey, this has given us a chance to make new friends," said Bourgeois with a laugh.
"You know, it is nice in some ways to see the community come together like this. It's nice to see how considerate people can be. I met some people here who don't live that far from me in the park and the woman is from Newfoundland, just like us. I didn't know that before," she said.
Bourgeois, who originally hailed from the west coast of Newfoundland, had arrived in Estevan most recently from Oshawa, Ontario while Caul and Hann had been in Invermay and Moosomin before arriving in Estevan two years ago.
"We're very appreciative of all the help. I don't know how long we'll be staying here, but the people who are helping out have been very kind and generous," said Caul.
So while the circumstances were grim, this trio of temporary victims were quite willing to try to put a positive light on the situation thanks to a strong sense of community.
They all expressed relief and acknowledged that their situation was not as stressful and desperate as those who had already seen their homes flooded out or were facing many hours of sandbagging or diking in desperate efforts to save their residences further along the valley. They had experienced the tip of the flood event and that was close enough and bad enough to make this something they'd never forget.