CBC News

It’s easy to see the flood risk of homes perched along the shores of the Ottawa River or the Red River. Everyone remembers the flooded-out Stampede Grounds in Calgary or the devastating images out of Quebec in 1996.

It’s harder to imagine an urban, north Toronto neighbourhood 27 kilometres from Lake Ontario being deemed high-risk.

Mike Mattos’s house is about a block from a small, cement culvert that usually runs a couple of feet deep. When he moved there in the 1970s, there was no flood risk. But things have changed.

“You’ve got climate change, with the sudden storms, urbanization with the runoff issues, and you’ve got bad infrastructure that wasn’t right when they built it,” he says. “And it all ends up with water in people’s basements and hundreds and hundreds of homes getting flooded.”

It happened to Mattos’s house in 2013. The culvert overflowed and water rushed toward his house. At the same time, the water and sewer systems on his street were overwhelmed, and pushed water back up through the drains. Water broke down his basement door and filled the area up to his shoulders.

Once the water was pumped out, Mattos took the $50,000 insurance payout and spent an additional $40,000 of his own money. Instead of restoring the basement, he used the money to fortify his house. He removed windows and built a 2.5-foot-high concrete barrier, which he calls a “sea wall,” around his back steps.

The basement itself is now just concrete floors and furnished with things Mattos wouldn’t mind losing if his defences are breached.

Mattos has $50,000 worth of flood coverage on the house with a $10,000 deductible. But he’s not sure what options he’ll have if the water gets in again. He said his insurance will be cancelled if he experiences another flood.


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