Highway repair underway amid supply shortages after devastating storm hits Atlantic Canada
A devastating rain storm that rocked Atlantic Canada has left washed out roads and flooding along the northeast coasts of Nova Scotia and southwestern Newfoundland.
Efforts are underway now in some areas to assess the damage and reopen vital transportation routes, though officials say cleanup from the storm could take weeks. Meanwhile, some communities are experience shortages of gas and other essentials.
Here’s a closer look at what’s happening.
'THERE'S NO BREAD IN TOWN'
Residents and officials in southwestern Newfoundland are concerned about supply shortages after the heavy rain washed out vital transportation routes.
Port aux Basques, N.L. resident Robert Hinks says the town is already running low on essentials.
"There's no bread in town right now, there's no eggs to be bought, fresh milk is getting low," Hinks told The Canadian Press on Thursday. "People are going to the gas stations and gassing up for fear of running out of gas, (but) you can't go anywhere anyway."
The town has three gas stations, "(but) none of the refuelling trucks can get in … I guess they're going to be drained by next week."
In the nearby town of Codroy, fire Chief Brian Osmand said four of the area's roads have been washed out, leaving 14 families stranded.
"We're making the arrangement to make sure their needs are met," Osmand told The Canadian Press.
Osmand said that the surrounding communities had missed their regular, weekly shipments of bread, milk, and eggs on Wednesday, causing shortages.
"We might be able to airlift staples back into the community," he said.
Port aux Basques Mayor Brian Button said currently the biggest concern accessing health care.
He said the town relies heavily on Corner Brook -- a larger city in the area -- for a lot of medical services.
However, with roads washed out, Button said accessing those services could be difficult.
“But, we’ve been assured by officials things are being looked after on that end, and we shouldn’t have to worry about things there,” he told CTV's Your Morning on Thursday.
Button said he is also concerned the town could experience issues getting other supplies too, and has urged residents not to overstock or hoard items.
“Get what you need and we’ll hopefully get by here.”
Newfoundland and Labrador announced on Thursday that construction work has begun in southwestern Newfoundland to rebuild damaged roads, including four sections of the Trans-Canada highway.
“Water levels have subsided and crews have mobilized materials and heavy equipment to the region to prepare for new culverts to be installed," the province said in a news release.
The province says the repairs are being completed "on a priority basis" and is urging motorists to avoid the areas " to allow contractors to complete work as quickly as possible."
In a series of tweets on Thursday, the province’s Transportation and Infrastructure department shared photos of the work that is underway, as well as the new culverts that will be installed.
Construction is already complete in some areas, such as Route 463 on the Port au Port Peninsula.
In a tweet Thursday, Environment Canada said the town received 165.1 millimetres of rain over the past two days.
“This sets an all-time record for most rainfall in a two-day period for the southwest coast town,” the tweet read.
Button said once evaluations are complete and the damage can be assessed, officials will devise a recovery and clean-up plan.
“Until that’s done, we really won’t know, and won’t have an idea on how we’re actually going to put all this into motion right now,” he said.
SOME FERRY SERVICE RESTORED
Meanwhile, preparations are also underway to temporarily resume the Argentia – North Sydney ferry.
In a press release issued Thursday morning, Marine Atlantic said resuming the ferry service will help provide the province with a marine link to transport both people and “critical supplies.”
“Following a request from the Provincial Government, Marine Atlantic has implemented its contingency plan to temporarily resume the Argentia ferry service,” the notice reads.
The company said the first sailing schedule between North Sydney, N.S. and Argentia, N.L., is scheduled to depart at 5 p.m. Atlantic Time on Thursday.
Speaking to CTV’s Your Morning on Thursday, Jason Mew, director of incident management at Nova Scotia’s emergency management office, said crews are working to assess damage to “several dozen roads” and at least five bridges.
He said they will be reopened as quickly as possible, once it is safe to do so.
Mew said provincial officials are also in touch with municipalities to determine what support is needed and where.
“Right now the provincial co-ordination centre is activated,” he explained. “That’s what we do at the provincial level, we co-ordinate the overall whole of government response for these types of emergencies.”
According to Mew, “a few people” have been evacuated from their homes.
“Presently they’re being taken care of,” he said.
Mew said their homes are being assessed by crews and insurance companies to determine when it will be safe for them to return.
The province is also working with Environment Canada, Mew said, as they wait for water levels to drop so they can ensure work is done in a safe manner.
“We received a lot of rain, in some places up to 280 millimetres,” he said. “So public works and a lot of different departments that are trying to assess some of this damage, it’s just to be able to get in there and do that inspection safely without endangering some of the employees that do that work.”
Mew said his biggest concern right now is reopening roadways.
“A lot of the roads that have been washed away, we do have another way of getting around,” he said. “But it’s always nice to have the main roads open as quickly as possible just in case someone requires to get somewhere quickly.”
A county-wide state of emergency in Victoria was lifted on Wednesday afternoon, but officials said residents should only travel if necessary.
Speaking at a press conference Thursday morning, Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston said the damage from the storm in the province is “significant.”
“It’s probably at least $7 million,” he said. “So we’ll trigger federal programming [and] we’ll do what we can to help people return to normal.”
Houston said there have been “some improvements” in cleanup efforts, even in the past day.
“But there’s a lot of work to be done to rebuild, repair, restore. Some of that is provincial responsibility, some of that is federal,” he said.
Houston said Canada’s Minister of National Defence Anita Anand reached out to him “immediately ” regarding aid.
“We don’t think that’s necessary now,” he said. “But I will tell you the lines of communication are open [and] we’ll trigger the federal programs and we’ll do what’s necessary to support those Nova Scotians that need it.”
FEDS ‘STANDING BY’ TO HELP
In a tweet Wednesday afternoon, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered his support to Atlantic Canada.
“I know this isn’t easy to go through and I know you’re worried,” he wrote. “We’ve got your back – and we’re standing by to provide any assistance you and your community may need. Please, stay safe.”
With files from The Canadian Press