Mood lifting in Port aux Basques, say residents, as Fiona relief announced

Patty Munden says it's sometimes difficult being in the old family home, but she's getting excited about the future and making new memories in a home she's hoping to build in Port aux Basques. She's seen here with her son, Cory. (Troy Turner/CBC - image credit)
Patty Munden says it's sometimes difficult being in the old family home, but she's getting excited about the future and making new memories in a home she's hoping to build in Port aux Basques. She's seen here with her son, Cory. (Troy Turner/CBC - image credit)
Troy Turner/CBC
Troy Turner/CBC

Dirt shuffles under her feet.

Shattered glass crunches on the floor of what was a well-used living room.

Personal belongings are scattered around the home.

All were upheaved by the ocean two months ago.

It's hard for the Munden family to go back to where they laid their heads for 48 years.

"There's days right now that I would love to just come back to my house and open my door, crawl into bed, but I know that can't happen," said Patty Munden.

Photo contributed by Cory Munden
Photo contributed by Cory Munden

A lifelong resident of Port aux Basques, she was forced out of her family home when post-tropical storm Fiona ripped through the community in September.

The weeks following the storm were hard, she said, and put her head in a spin, but things are looking up now.

"I'm more settled now. I mean, there's two months in almost, so I'm getting a new pattern and I'm adjusting to that. But yeah, it was hard at first. It's getting easier."

Troy Turner/CBC
Troy Turner/CBC

The new pattern began to form last week. That's when the premier called a meeting with those affected by Fiona to outline some of the financial relief that will be made available.

This includes:

  • A minimum of $200 per square foot replacement value for homes, based on an assessment

  • Money for contents of the home as determined by the Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements program Schedule of Loss.

  • Money for land, or provision of a "suitable land option."

The news is welcomed in the community.

"I was ecstatic. I was over the moon. I was so relieved I could finally… I mean, my future was in the hands of the government. And until they made that announcement, I didn't know what my next move was."

Photo contributed by Cory Munden
Photo contributed by Cory Munden

Now the moves are clear, and the direction succinct. Munden has purchased a piece of land and is looking at plans to build a home. She said it's won't be the large five-bedroom house where they raised a family, but it will be theirs, and, most importantly, it will still be in Port aux Basques.

"You know, this home has tonnes and tonnes of memories, but I'll carry my memories wherever I go," she said. "We've had christenings and weddings and my father's funeral here, and family reunions and everything. I will miss that. But I'm ready to move on. I'll make new memories wherever I go now. Yeah, it's like a new adventure for me now."

Despite having a home that's being condemned, and not permitted to build back in the same area of town, Munden says she feels lucky. Since the storm, she's made a lot of new friends who are also out of their home, and many of them escaped with just the clothes they were wearing.

Troy Turner/CBC
Troy Turner/CBC

Her son, Cory, was also pleased with last week's announcement. He says there's a change in the atmosphere of the community.

"It feels like a weight has been lifted off a lot of people's shoulders in town. You can see it in the mood and conversations and people can plan for a future," he said. "The community has got an injection of hope. I think that's the right word… hope."

It's hard walking through the old homestead, he says, and especially difficult to realize there's a new reality of living on waterfront property.

"You got to grow up when your backyard was the ocean — it's quite an experience," he said. "And it's unfortunate that we're moving into this era where those opportunities won't exist anymore. So the community is going to change, no question."

Troy Turner/CBC
Troy Turner/CBC

'It's still been draining, waiting for answers'

For Austin Taylor, there's also a sense of relief following last week's meeting with the premier. But he's taking things day by day.

"It's still been draining, waiting for answers," he said. "We got a few answers, but you know, I'll just wait and see what happens next."

Taylor and his family were also put out of their home by Fiona, but were lucky to find temporary housing on the other side of town. They're staying in a spacious bungalow, which has been a blessing, he said, but the stairs to the front door are proving difficult for his daughter, who is disabled.

"We're scared she's going to fall," he said. "She's got bad ankles and mobility and walking and she finds it hard to take down the steps."

On the bright side, Taylor says the town is expected to build a wheelchair ramp in the coming days.

His family is also planning to stay in Port aux Basques. He said he'll be looking to buy once the relief package is available, but is hoping to stay where he is for the winter.

Taylor, admits though, that it's hard not being able to go back to his old home.

"I'm going to miss it," he said. "Here, I've had [only] one person who spoke to us so far. They don't know who you are, basically. Down there we all knew who one another was, 'hello,' or 'good day,' or 'what you doing?' you know."

Inquiries related to Hurricane Fiona should be directed to Fiona Response Coordinator, Joanne Clarke, at 709-695-9871 or email at FionaResponse@gov.nl.ca.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador