First rains, then fire, cause highway traffic snarls in Deer Lake

·2 min read
Intense rains in a short timespan Tuesday evening caused damage all around Deer Lake, according to Mayor Dean Ball, including this section of highway near the Deer Lake Powerhouse. (Submitted by Dean Ball - image credit)
Intense rains in a short timespan Tuesday evening caused damage all around Deer Lake, according to Mayor Dean Ball, including this section of highway near the Deer Lake Powerhouse. (Submitted by Dean Ball - image credit)

A double dose of disaster has caused major traffic snarls in the Deer Lake area, with a highway washout followed by a building fire creating work for emergency responders and slowdowns for drivers.

The Trans-Canada Highway near the Deer Lake Powerhouse remained off limits to drivers Wednesday afternoon, after a heavy rainfall caused parts of the road to washout and damaged other parts of the town. Motorists were being diverted through the town itself when fire broke out around 1 p.m at the Rockwood, a bar on Main Street, steps away from the detour.

Firefighters responded to the scene quickly, as some worked to extinguish the blaze and others directed traffic in the area. By about 2 p.m. the fire was out, according to Fire Chief Earl Tansley. He told CBC News crews weren't sure what caused the fire.

The highway itself is still "intact for the most part," said Deer Lake Mayor Dean Ball on Wednesday morning, noting some of the asphalt had been swept away, along with much of the ground underneath.

"You can rest assured this highway will remain closed for at least 24 to 48 hours," Ball said.

The rain began pelting down Tuesday evening, and almost immediately started causing damage, said Ball.

"Probably around 7:30 or so we identified a huge issue here on the TCH between the Powerhouse Bridge and the Legion," he said. Crews shut down westbound lanes, and then a few hours later, closed it entirely to traffic.

By Wednesday afternoon, new culverts had arrived on site, with an excavator digging out the existing damaged ones.

Water causes havoc

Wednesday morning was peaceful, but Ball said the evening before was anything but. He estimated the storm system dumped about 35 millimetres of rain in about an hour.

"In a short period of time, it was havoc. I know there's probably hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage done around town with residential properties," he said.

Ball said homes and basements flooded, with many residents calling the town to report problems. The storm also blew out a few transformers around the town, causing homes and businesses to lose power.

"It's crazy what can happen with 35 millimetres of rain," he told CBC Radio's Newfoundland Morning.

The highway detour through town is an emergency route often used in winter, Ball said, as the area around the Powerhouse is prone to whiteouts during snowstorms.

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