Severe storm slams northern Carleton County in New Brunswick

·6 min read

A severe thunderstorm rolled over New Brunswick's northern Carleton County late Wednesday, June 30, delivering significant damage in the region, including tearing off part of the Northern Carleton High School roof in Florenceville-Bristol.

The storm left a large part of the school's roof hanging precariously down the side of the building. The high winds, accompanied by heavy rain, spread debris from the roof and other parts of the structure throughout the school grounds.

Residents in the nearby community of Greenfield also report significant damage to buildings and uprooted trees.

Anglophone West School District Superintendent David McTimoney said district staff joined provincial officials at the scene at the Forenceville-Bristol school early Thursday morning.

"We are aware of the damage at Carleton North High School that was caused by a weather event last night," said McTimony in an email response to the River Valley Sun. "School and district officials responded early on, and the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, together with the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, are now involved due to the severity of the damage."

He said the immediate focus is to secure the building.

"Provincial officials will assess the scope of the damage and map out a plan for repairs," he said. "With school out for the summer, we do not expect any operational impact for staff and students at this time."

CNHS principal Jason Smith said that despite the significant damage, he's grateful no one was hurt.

"As a result of this event occurring after normal operational hours, no school staff were in harm's path."

Smith said the building sustained substantial damage to the roof over the skilled trades and arts departments.

"Debris from the event was scattered across the teacher parking lot, the lawns and into the tree line adjacent to school property," he said. "Water damage has occurred in the hallway in this wing of the school as well as the adjacent classrooms. The extent of the damage is under assessment."

Smith said the school district has an excellent process that allows the appropriate people to respond, noting that it involves contacting an emergency facilities helpline when events occur after hours.

Depending on the nature of the situation, Smith said the process notifies the appropriate managers, who enact emergency measures as per the plan.

"In our situation, our facilities manager from the Woodstock Education Centre responded, Kyle Harrison, and he dispatched Doug Booker from maintenance, and he remained on scene throughout the night.

Smith said the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure would receive a damage report, with copies provided to school district Director of Finance Shawn Tracey and Superintendent McTimoney.

"I want to say a special thank you to (vice-principal) Jana Brennan and her husband Andy for responding on scene last night in my absence as well as our local fire department under the leadership of Chief Andrew Cougle," Smith said. "District staff have responded as usual with efficiency and care."

Director of Schools Jay Colpitts was one of the Anglophone West officials on scene Thursday morning.

He said security alarms rang around 10:40 p.m. He said Brennan responded to the alarm, noting the RCMP and the fire department was there when she arrived.

"They went through the building to check to see if it was okay," Colpitts said. "At that point, they realized the roof had been peeled back and debris on the ground.

He said roof inspectors arrived Thursday morning to assess the damage, and a local flooring company responded to remove water and clean up the interior.

He said engineers would inspect the school on Friday for structural damage.

"Then we will see where we go from there," he said.

Colpitts, who doesn't live far from the school, said the level of damage surprised him.

He said the damage at the school and in Greenfield appeared localized.

"It's like you could draw a line," Colpitts said. "There are areas near this that are untouched. Outback, the soccer field and the fence are untouched. Everything there was fine, but this was kind of shocking."

He said the cost of repairs would come from the departmental budget.

"They have always been there to support us, and it's good that way," Colpitts said.

Carleton-Victoria MLA and Minister of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries Margaret Johnson visited the school Thursday morning.

Like Colpitts, she noted the corridor of damage, saying the region got hit by a similar weather event about 10 years ago.

"It's phenomenal to see the force of nature," Johnson said." The roof peeled back like a sardine can."

Environment Canada has yet to respond to inquiries if a tornado or another cyclonic event hit the region.

"It really doesn't matter what we're going to call it," said Johnson. "We just know what caused the terrible damage."

Florenceville-Bristol Mayor Karl Curtis said he is out of town but was informed about the situation.

He said he would check on the situation when he returned Thursday afternoon.

The Greenfield Road area sustained significant damage, including damage to buildings and several fallen and uprooted trees.

Greenfield Road resident Erica Smith said as her family watched Netflix, they noticed the wind getting "stronger and stronger."

"And then you'd hear cracks and stuff, and then it eventually calmed down," she said.

When Smith deemed it safe, she went outside to find several trees down on the power line running to her house.

"It ripped the power mast right off the roof," she said.

Smith spent Canada Day awaiting NB Power to restore electricity to her home.

Utility crews arrived on the scene at 2:30 a.m., returned power to many homes in the area and hoped to complete the job by the end of the day.

While the storm delivered a lot of damage, Smith said she was thankful no one was hurt.

"And, actually, I was lucky that one of the trees that landed on the power line didn't land on my roof," she said.

Smith said the storm seemed to follow a path, noting no damage at the back of her house, but her neighbour's house seemed to escape a direct hit, but a tree fell on a building behind his house.

"It's like that up the road, too, where a tree fell on a house, and uprooted trees but missed another," she said.

Environment Canada has not returned phone calls at this time.

With files from Theresa Blackburn, River Valley Sun

Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun

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