When a natural dike protecting the community of Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac was breached by water flowing out of the Lake of Two Mountains 2,000 homes were flooded, forcing approximately 6,000 residents to evacuate as fast as possible.
“I got to see the exact spot where the dike protecting the city of Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac broke,” said Master Seaman (MS) Curtis Kostin. “Seeing the point of impact, and the force the water had on a mobile home moving it off its foundation and into the street.”
“It was a very surreal moment; I could imagine the panic and confusion the residents of that community must have felt that night.”
MS Kostin has been a member of the Naval Reserves for 29 years. Currently based out of HMCS York in Markham, Ontario he was deployed to support flood relief efforts as part of Operation (Op) LENTUS 2019.
Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac is an off-island suburb of Montreal, Quebec with a population of roughly 18,000.
There were many opportunities for Naval Reserve members to help people in this devastated community. There was also a lot of emotion.
“I had mixed emotions. I felt distraught over the loss people suffered in those uncontrollable situations,” said MS Kostin. “But I was also thankful that I could lend assistance to ease their anxiety and provide relief in such troubling times.”
There was one resident in particular who had a unique request. He needed to get back to his home so he could retrieve his extensive reptile collection. Having been evacuated the night previous, the Naval Reserves provided the resident the opportunity to access his house to rescue his prized pets.
“Small boat access was the only method available to reach his home. There were many obstacles in the water to avoid such as parked cars, logs, and debris. We eventually reached his front deck which we used as a dock for our boat to come alongside,” said the master seaman.
“Going inside his home to assist him we noticed his basement was almost fully flooded which would make recovery a challenge.”
But the most challenging aspect of relocating numerous reptiles was determining how to contain them, separate them and transport them. The reservists had to be very resourceful and improvise travel carriers using food storage containers, fabric cooler bags, and serving dishes.
“I noticed several times, the man looking out his home window, the shock and disbelief he felt. The images he saw were not anything he had seen before, the area had changed forever,” said Kostin.
Once finished unloading all the reptiles into the owner’s vehicle, the resident was very appreciative and could not stop thanking the reservists. Not all had been lost.
“That day we provided assistance. But more than that we provided the feeling of relief.”
For MS Kostin this was the fourth time deploying on flood relief efforts. Previously he had contributed to Op LENTUS during the 2017 flooding in Quebec, and also served in Winnipeg twice. Once in 2009, and then back in 1997 during the “Flood of the Century”.
“Without hesitation I put my civilian life on hold to become an active member of the Navy allowing duty and honour to guide me. It is with privilege I serve.”