A day after post-tropical storm Fiona left a trail of destruction through Atlantic Canada and eastern Quebec, residents of a coastal town in western Newfoundland continued to pick through wreckage strewn across their community, easily the most damaged area in the region.
Photos posted on Sunday from Port aux Basques show homes and outbuildings smashed or submerged on the shoreline, the result of a record-breaking storm surge that swamped a residential neighbourhood.
Police received reports that two women had been swept into the ocean as their homes collapsed early Saturday. One woman was rescued by local residents, but the status of the second woman remained unclear.
Meanwhile, Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston was expected to survey some of the hardest hit areas of Cape Breton, where Fiona’s wrath left many homes badly damaged.
Despite downed trees and widespread power outages, some Cape Breton residents decided to carry on with milestone events Sunday.
Samantha Murphy, 35, said she was going to proceed with her wedding at a church in downtown Sydney, followed by a reception meal prepared by a caterer with a generator.
Sitting in a hotel lobby with her three bridesmaids, she was wrapping floral arrangements and waiting for her hairdresser to arrive as she contemplated Fiona’s unwelcome visit.
“I think it’s going to be more romantic with candlelight,” she said in an interview. “We’re going back to when there was no power. Our family is around and let’s celebrate our love.”
Murphy said she was determined to proceed with her wedding on Sunday after the COVID-19 pandemic forced her to cancel her previous plans.
On the north shore of Prince Edward Island, another area ravaged by Fiona, lobster buyer Leigh Misener pointed to what was once his office on the Covehead Wharf.
On Sunday morning, it lay upside down about three kilometres away on a front lawn.
“That’s our building,” Misener said with a laugh. “Stop by anytime.”
Despite his wry humour, he said it was heartbreaking to see the destruction. The wharf is now an ugly vision of smashed buildings and upturned soil, as if an earthquake shook the place. Where the buildings once stood now lies a foundation littered with weights used for lobster traps and an anchor sitting in the rubble.
“The whole wharf’s gone,” Misener said. “Everyone’s going to hurt from it.”
Judy Profitt, who lives a few kilometres away on Brackley Beach, pointed to the Covehead Bridge and a now absent landmark — a small dune that once stood next to the bridge.
“It’s my favorite dune, but it’s just been sheared off,” Profitt said, her voice breaking with emotion.
“I had taken a picture of that dune. After my husband died, (it was) laser-etched on his tombstone. To look at that dune now, it’s just such a sad sight.”
In eastern Quebec, officials were heading to the storm-battered island chain of Îles-de-la-Madeleine, where high winds and storm surges caused flooding and road closures.
Provincial Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault confirmed that 30 and 40 people were forced to leave their homes, but no one was hurt.
“We’re going into recovery mode,” she told reporters in Quebec City.
Guilbault said one of two underwater telecommunication cables linking the islands with the mainland — dubbed COGIM 1 — was damaged by Fiona, but she said the other remained intact.
Guilbault said the Quebec government has worked hard to lessen the impact of storms that have worsened with climate change, saying millions of dollars have been invested in slowing coastal erosion.
“As it’s an island, the problem is fairly chronic around the island and in eastern Quebec in general,” she said.
As for Fiona, the big storm moved into southeastern Quebec on Sunday, with Environment Canada saying it will continue to weaken as it tracks across southeastern Labrador and over the Labrador Sea.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2022.
Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press
Estimate puts hurricane Fiona insured damages at $660 million
An initial estimate by Catastrophe Indices and Quantification Inc. suggests hurricane Fiona caused $660 million in insured damage.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada says the storm was the most costly extreme weather event ever recorded in Atlantic Canada in terms of insured damages based on the estimate provided by CatIQ.
It added that many of those affected by the storm were located in high-risk flood areas and floodplains where residential flood insurance coverage is not available.
As a result, the bureau says the overwhelming majority of costs for the disaster will be borne by government.
The storm made landfall in Nova Scotia on Sept. 24 and ripped through the region, knocking out power to more than 500,000 customers in the Maritimes.
The bureau says the storm also washed at least 20 homes into the ocean.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 19, 2022.
The Canadian Press
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