Could take 'days or weeks' to fix flood-damaged parts of Cape Breton

·5 min read
Could take 'days or weeks' to fix flood-damaged parts of Cape Breton
A man tried driving through flood waters on St. Peters Road in Sydney, N.S., Wednesday morning and got stuck.  (Holly Connors/CBC - image credit)
A man tried driving through flood waters on St. Peters Road in Sydney, N.S., Wednesday morning and got stuck. (Holly Connors/CBC - image credit)

It could be "days or weeks" before things get back to normal in flood-ravaged parts of Cape Breton following the rain and wind storm that swept across Nova Scotia, according to a provincial transportation official.

Jamie Chisholm, the Department of Transportation's eastern district director, said Wednesday the hardest hit areas were Inverness and Victoria counties.

"We've had multiple bridges compromised, some washed out completely, several roads that are impassable right now," he said.

Nova Scotia's Emergency Management Office declared a state of emergency late Tuesday night for Victoria County after heavy rainfall washed out roads. The state of emergency was lifted Wednesday at noon.

Parts of the Cabot Trail, a 298-kilometre highway loop in northern Cape Breton, are washed out and closed, Chisholm said, and the Gold Brook Bridge in Middle River has been "compromised" and is shut down.

Holly Connors/CBC
Holly Connors/CBC

"A lot of it, we're going to find, I guess, more damage as the water recedes, because it's really hard to tell until the water recedes," he said. "It's probably easier to describe the number of roads that don't have problems than the ones that do."

Rainfall in Nova Scotia on Nov. 23 💧

The Emergency Management Office is asking people in Inverness and Victoria counties to stay off the roads.

Lyle Donovan, EMO co-ordinator in Victoria County, said more than a dozen roads are washed out and a man was injured when his car got stuck on one of the damaged roads.

"People were travelling around, everybody was curious, wanting to see the damage out there. But as we discovered that roads were being undermined and washouts were happening — and they happened, actually, as somebody was driving over them last night and his truck went into a washout area," he said.

Sarah Barrington
Sarah Barrington

Greg Weir from Victoria County Water Utility said Neils Harbour in northern Cape Breton is under a boil water advisory. He said there's a leak somewhere in the water system but officials don't know where and crews are having trouble getting around due to the condition of the roads.

People in nearby Ingonish were reporting they are essentially cut off because the only roads leading in and out of the community were impassable Wednesday morning. Victoria County Coun. Larry Dauphinee said late Wednesday morning the road to Ingonish from Sydney had reopened.

He said there's still a major blockage on the other side of the community on the Cabot Trail just past the Broad Cove Campground. It means the community is cut off from Buchanan Memorial Hospital in Neils Harbour.

Stills from Nova Scotia Webcams
Stills from Nova Scotia Webcams

Rainfall and wind gusts

According to preliminary rainfall totals gathered by Environment Canada at 8 p.m. Tuesday, some areas of Cape Breton were hit with more than 100 millimetres. Ingonish Beach recorded 211 millimetres.

Sydney received 150 millimetres, which is short of the 225 millimetres recorded during the Thanksgiving Day flood in October 2016. That rain event flooded Sydney's Ashby neighbourhood and wiped out about 20 homes.

"Hopefully the rain is going to end soon and the flooding that we're seeing now is about peak," Christina Lamey, speaking for Cape Breton Regional Municipality, said Wednesday morning, urging people not to drive past barricades.

"We've had some instances of people going around barricades and getting stalled in water."

Holly Connors/CBC
Holly Connors/CBC

Terry Drohan, who used to live on St. Peters Road in Sydney before the 2016 flood damaged his home beyond repair, visited the now empty lot after this week's rainstorm.

"There it is, a lake again five years later."

Holly Connors/CBC
Holly Connors/CBC

He bought a home on Park Street, two blocks away and said he had a "pretty hectic" Tuesday night.

"My sump pumps lasted until around 11 o'clock last night and then the water came up so high that it started coming in through the basement doors, so my basement's completely flooded," he said.

Collegeville, south of Antigonish, reported 102 millimetres of rain as of 8 p.m. Tuesday, and Port Hawkesbury received 101 millimetres.

Maximum wind gusts hit 140 km/h on the Skyline Trail in Cape Breton Highlands National Park and 134 km/h in St. Joseph du Moine near Chéticamp.

Parks Canada has closed the section of the Cabot Trail from Neils Harbour to Ingonish in Cape Breton Highlands National Park because of flooding. Officials have said they would assess the damage at daybreak.

Inverness County CAO Keith MacDonald said he's received reports of some basements flooded in the Margaree area but hasn't heard of any significant damage to homes. He also said the seven wastewater treatment plants throughout the county are all performing well Wednesday morning.

Community of White Point cut off

Murdock Burton who lives in White Point, located about 170 kilometres north of Sydney, said people in his community are cut off from the rest of the island because of road washouts.

He shared dramatic photos on Facebook Wednesday morning showing the damage.

Murdock Burton/Facebook
Murdock Burton/Facebook

"This is probably, by the far, the worst we've ever seen. You know, never seen that much rain in a short period," Burton said.

Burton estimated 20 to 30 people are affected by the road washout in his area.

"We're kind of used to it in a way, we grew up in the country and it comes with the job," Burton said. "But we often wonder, if something happened, how would we get out? We hope there's no emergency or anything like that."

Antigonish flooding

In Antigonish, public works staff are assessing damage to Route 245 and flooding at the MacDonald Trailer Park, also known as Indian Gardens Trailer Park, off Maclellan Street. Thirty-three people escaped by boat when the park flooded on Tuesday.

WATCH | Dramatic washout on Highway 245 Tuesday, north of Maryvale and Antigonish:

Power outages persist Wednesday afternoon, with about 200 customers left without service, mainly in Cape Breton, with the bulk in Sydney and River Bourgeois.

Marine Atlantic has cancelled all of Wednesday's crossings between Cape Breton and Newfoundland.

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