Parts of Atlantic Canada cleaning up after three days of heavy rain and powerful wind
Shortages of bread, milk and other staples were reported Thursday from communities in southwestern Newfoundland left isolated by a storm that dumped almost 200 millimetres of rain on the area, washing out roads and bridges.
And in eastern and northern Nova Scotia, work crews fanned out to pump water out of basements and repair roads inundated by torrential rainfall that had hammered parts of Atlantic Canada for three days.
In the coastal town of Port aux Basques, in the southwestern corner of Newfoundland, repairs were underway on many roads, including the Trans-Canada Highway, and a helicopter was used Wednesday to rescue some residents trapped in a yurt — a round, tent-like shelter typically made from canvas and large poles.
Resident Robert Hinks confirmed supplies in town are running low.
“There’s no bread in town right now, there’s no eggs to be bought, fresh milk is getting low,” Hinks said in an interview Thursday from Port aux Basques. “People are going to the gas stations and gassing up for fear of running out of gas, (but) you can’t go anywhere anyway.”
The town has three gas stations, “(but) none of the refuelling trucks can get in … I guess they’re going to be drained by next week.”
In the nearby town of Codroy, fire Chief Brian Osmand said four of the area’s roads have been washed out, leaving 14 families stranded.
“We’re making the arrangement now to make sure their needs are met,” Osmand said in an interview as his volunteer crew pumped water from the basement of the Hynes Chicken Villa in Tompkins, N.L.
Osmand said the Codroy Valley Volunteer Fire Department, which serves 16 communities, had already pumped out more than a dozen basements on Thursday. The fire chief confirmed that the surrounding communities had missed their regular, weekly shipments of bread, milk and eggs on Wednesday, causing shortages.
“We might be able to airlift staples back into the community,” he said.
On Wednesday night, when the storm was at its worst, Osmand said the rain came down at an unbelievable rate. “It was wicked,” he said, adding it was too windy to use the fire truck.
“We were doing call-outs for the fire department, and there were times we couldn’t see a foot in front of us. And it’s not because it was foggy — it was just the rain. It was horrible. It’s the most rain I’ve seen, and I’m 61 years old. … It was like getting hit by 10 buckets at one time.”
Meanwhile, the ferry service that operates between Port aux Basques and North Sydney, N.S., was forced to alter its route because of road closures. Marine Atlantic announced Thursday it would temporarily reroute the crossing to Argentia, in eastern Newfoundland, to ensure people and supplies can reach the province. That route is usually offered only in the summer months.
“Employees are working diligently to prepare the (Argentia) terminal to accept customers on this emergency basis,” Marine Atlantic said in a statement.
The storm, described as an elongated area of low pressure, stalled over the region between Monday and Wednesday. Feeding on tropical moisture in the Caribbean, it dumped record amounts of rain on many communities, including Port aux Basques, where 165 mm accumulated over the past two days.
In the Codroy Valley, one weather station recorded 195 mm of rain. As well, a gust in the Wreckhouse area reached 141 kilometres per hour.
In Nova Scotia, almost 30 roads and bridges were closed by the time the rain stopped on Wednesday. Most of the damage was reported in Antigonish County, in northeastern Nova Scotia, and in Victoria and Inverness counties in northern Cape Breton.
Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston said Thursday it would cost at least $7 million to repair the damage, adding that the province would apply for federal funds. “There’s a lot of work to be done to rebuild, repair, restore,” he said.
Some communities along Cape Breton’s northeastern shore were inundated by more than 200 mm of rain, and several washouts forced the closure of sections of the scenic Cabot Trail in Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
In Ingonish River, N.S., on the east side of the Cabot Trail, flooding and washouts were reported amid heavy downpours that dumped 278 mm of rain on the tiny community. On Thursday, the road between Neils Harbour and Ingonish remained impassable, leaving both communities isolated.
“This week’s storm has hit our province, our people and our transportation infrastructure hard,” Nova Scotia’s acting public works minister, Allan MacMaster, said in a statement. “Our first priority is making sure people are safe, so please check in with your neighbours, especially seniors.”
MacMaster asked residents in the affected areas to stay off the roads.
—Michael MacDonald and Danielle Edwards, The Canadian Press