'Torrential rain' causes flooding in Newfoundland town already devastated by Fiona

CHANNEL-PORT AUX BASQUES, N.L. — A southwestern Newfoundland community already overwhelmed by the destruction wrought by post-tropical storm Fiona is now dealing with flooding after a weekend of heavy rainfall.

Port aux Basques Mayor Brian Button said the damage caused by the historic storm on Sept. 24 left his town more vulnerable to harsh weather. And with a Newfoundland winter ahead, Button said he's worried about what's to come.

"We're at the mercy of Mother Nature right now," Button said in an interview Monday. "Every little storm, or every little bit of wind that you're talking about getting now, makes you wonder: 'Am I going to have troubles in this?'"

Fiona caused widespread damage and power outages across the East Coast. Port aux Basques, which sits on the island of Newfoundland's southwestern tip, was hit particularly hard: between 85 and 90 houses were washed away or rendered uninhabitable by the storm surge and resulting floods, Button said.

Fiona had already compromised the town's storm systems, he said. So when nearly 85 millimetres of rain poured onto the town on Saturday and into Sunday, those storm drains spilled over and water flowed into the community's streets and homes.

And there was more bad weather ahead: Environment Canada was calling for wind gusts of up to 110 kilometres per hour in the area beginning Monday afternoon.

"There's days we don't know where to start," Button said.

Much of the community's post-Fiona rebuilding efforts have been focused on people's homes, since many residents have been displaced by damage to their houses or to the streets on which their houses stand, Button said.

The weekend's rain and flooding have exposed infrastructure issues that now need urgent attention.

"Because we have people in other homes that didn't necessarily have problem problems while Fiona struck, but they are now experiencing problems," he said. "We can't displace more people at this time because we have nowhere for them to go."

Fall and winter weather in Newfoundland can be harsh. Hurricane season ends in late November, and it is often replaced by months of blizzards that bring freezing rain and leave piles of snow.

Button said anxiety among residents is running high as the weather worsens and repairs to the town drag on.

"The community is under a lot of stress," he said, adding that Fiona destroyed "large systems" that will take a long time to repair.

"We're starting to run into some troubled times here with the weather and the time of the year," he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 14, 2022.

The Canadian Press