A large, slow-moving storm brought torrential rain and strong winds to Atlantic Canada, flooding basements and washing out roads in western Cape Breton on Wednesday.
The situation has even blocked access to a hospital on the island.
A state of emergency was declared late Tuesday in Cape Breton’s Victoria County, where schools were closed and residents were warned to stay off the roads.
The storm dumped between 100 mm and 150 mm of rain across large sections of Cape Breton, with some areas along the east coast of Victoria County receiving more than 200 mm of rain. Environment Canada said as of 11 a.m. on Wednesday, 278.4 mm had fallen in Ingonish River, and 263.3 mm had fallen in Ingonish Beach.
“We’ve had pretty well the biggest rain event I think I can ever remember in my lifetime,” said Larry Dauphinee, councillor for Ingonish Beach and the deputy warden for Victoria County.
“A lot of flooding, a lot of washouts on the roads, a lot of basements, flooding. But probably the biggest issue is the roadblocks or conditions on the Cabot Trail, which has taken off access to our hospital in Neils Harbour. And we have just recently with caution, can make the trip into Sydney, but we are still locked on the northern end going towards our hospital.”
Dauphinee said Wednesday morning that the situation is concerning because in the event of an emergency, people would have to drive to Sydney, which is “a two hour drive on a good day.”
“The transportation and the condition of the roads is probably most serious issue at this time,” he said.
He added that while flooding is common in the area, the amount of flooding these past couple of days has been “amazing.” The area is dotted with small landslides and washouts, he added.
“We did have one incident where an employee of a road maintenance crew — actually the road collapsed underneath him and his truck did go into the washout. He was able to get out and he’s doing OK now, but that was probably the most serious injury that we had,” he said.
Jamie Chisholm, the eastern district director for the Department of Public Works, described the region as being in a “crisis mode” overnight.
“We are going to have a lot of damage. It’s going to take several weeks even longer for some of these structures to reestablish,” he said.
“We’ve had crews out all night and all day today, and they’re certainly trying to do what they can. But we have a lot to deal with here.”
Victoria and Inverness counties were hardest hit, where about 30 to 40 roads were flooded or washed out.
“We lost three or four bridges in the area,” Chisholm added.
Dauphinee said the good news as of Wednesday, is that the waters have receded “quite fast in most locations,” however the process now turns to surveying the damage and taking on repairs.
“Cleanup has started in a lot of the homes. The crucial thing for us right now is to do the the provincial department of highways are doing their assessment of the bridges and highways. We’re waiting for the reports on that and hopefully get everything open,” he said.
He added that some roads, such as the one going north of Ingonish and communities north of that roadway, where disruptions are likely to last for a couple of days until repairs can be made.
He also said the region is lucky, in that it isn’t in the same situation as British Columbia’s interior, where recent flooding has devastated communities.
“I guess we’re lucky we’re not like B.C., B.C., where everything is in the valley. The water holds for a long time. We’re lucky here. We’re out in the ocean. The high volumes of water once it comes down, off and out into the communities, goes to the ocean, so it does recede quite quick,” he said.
‘Definitely would not attempt to leave my house’
Meanwhile in Sydney, residents are also dealing with flooded neighbourhoods. Authorities have told people to stay off the roads and avoid travelling.
Resident Maurice Cooke spoke to Global News from inside his home, which is surrounded by water, and has no plans to leave for a while.
Water outside his driveway was halfway up the tires of his SUV.
“I feel if we had to, we could (leave) if it was a life and death situation … if like the house was on fire, maybe or something. I would definitely leave the house. But if it can be avoided, I definitely would not attempt to leave my house,” he said.
“There’s debris and trees that are down and the road. They have roads blocked off. So yeah, just I wouldn’t want to be out in this and put myself or anybody else in harm’s way.”
He added his family had emergency supplies to last a couple of days, and thankfully, the house still had power.
— With files from Amber Fryday and Ross Lord