The economic impact of a massive post-tropical storm that wreaked havoc across much of Atlantic Canada is still being tallied, but as residents, hydro crews and soldiers continued their cleanup efforts, the scale of the devastation was staggering.
Widespread power outages persisted on Monday in the communities that were hardest hit as the storm, called Fiona, tore across the region over the weekend. Some hospitals were running on generators, while cell service remained unavailable and people faced long lineups for gasoline. Many residents were forced to stay home, because roads were still impassable. They tried to remove uprooted trees from their properties and repair damaged roofs and windows.
In Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and parts of southwestern Newfoundland, schools and government offices were closed Monday. Some of PEI’s most iconic coastal tourist landmarks, including portions of the sand dunes on Cavendish Beach at PEI National Park, were washed away by waves.
Some Atlantic health authorities, such as Newfoundland’s Eastern Health, reported no impact to health care delivery as a result of the storm, while others suspended non-urgent services. In the hardest hit areas of Nova Scotia, only emergency surgeries were performed on Monday. Elective procedures were cancelled or postponed.
In PEI, electricity was restored by Monday to two major hospitals that had lost power, according to Everton McLean, a spokesperson for Health PEI. He noted that all other services were operating on generator power. One administrative building sustained significant damage, and communication infrastructure had been compromised, he said. Non-urgent appointments and procedures on the island were cancelled on Monday.
Power remained out for most residents of PEI Monday morning, as convoys of Canadian Forces trucks arrived to help with the cleanup effort. Premier Dennis King told a local radio station that the rebuilding effort – which will affect everything from schools and roads to farms and fisheries infrastructure – will be complicated by a labour shortage that has already been delaying projects on the island.
“This is a Herculean effort that we’re going to need. We have communities that have been torn apart.” he said.
The province’s Emergency Measures Organization said there has been one death connected to carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator.
On Newfoundland’s southwestern coast, where homes and buildings were washed into the sea by a powerful storm surge, residents were sifting through the rubble left behind by Fiona. Some lost everything to the storm, and were trying to salvage anything of value from the debris scattered along the shoreline.
Condolences were pouring in for a 73-year-old Port aux Basques woman who, according to the Newfoundland and Labrador RCMP, was killed by a massive wave as she prepared to flee her home. Her name has not been released.
“My heart breaks for the family and friends of the woman from Port aux Basques who passed away when Hurricane Fiona made landfall,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a message posted to social media.
Newfoundland and Labrador Minister of Justice and Public Safety John Hogan urged residents to heed the advice of local authorities about when it was safe to return home, to avoid further loss of life.
“As traumatic and devastating as it must be to lose a family home – some homes which I’m sure have been in families for one or two or maybe three generations, all your belongings, everything you have has been washed out to sea – we can rebuild and we can replace those things, but you can’t rebuild or replace a lost life,” he said.
The death toll from the storm rose to three. RCMP in Nova Scotia say a search for Larry Smith, a missing 81-year-old man from Lower Prospect, N.S., was suspended after police came to believe he had been swept out to sea. Premier Tim Houston offered his condolences during a news conference on Monday.
“Our hearts go out to the family of Larry Smith,” Mr. Houston said. “I cannot imagine the pain that you are enduring right now.”
In Nova Scotia, the storm left widespread damage, washing out bridges, destroying cottages, tearing the roofs off businesses and uprooting mature trees that had stood for centuries. John Lohr, the provincial minister responsible for the Emergency Management Office, said Fiona’s destruction was “breathtaking,” and that it was the most damaging wind and rain event in almost 20 years.
The province offered an aid package to individuals and organizations totalling an estimated $40-million on Monday. The payouts will include $100 for households who lost power for at least 48 hours, to cover the expense of spoiled food; $250 a person for tree and debris removal; a $150 top-up for recipients of income assistance; and a $100,000 hotel fund for displaced people in Cape Breton, one of the province’s hardest-hit areas.
Announcing the funding on Monday, Mr. Houston, the Premier, described the wreckage he witnessed while touring the province in recent days: Trees lying on homes, power poles snapped in half, one business that “literally blew away.” Roughly 181,000 Nova Scotians are still without power, he said.
“The stress of the question on everyone’s mind – when is our power coming back? – was palpable in the voices and in the eyes of everybody we met along the way,” he said.
In New Brunswick, where Fiona caused flooding and damaged wharfs in communities along the Northumberland Strait, the province announced disaster relief financial assistance for the people most affected, with an application deadline of Jan. 31, 2023.
The province said the disaster financial assistance is not a replacement for insurance, though, and added that it would cover “only the basic costs of essential items,” and not cottages, boats, vehicles or trailers.
Newfoundland’s provincial government said some losses experienced by homeowners may be covered by the federal Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements program. PEI said it would give $5-million to non-profit and charity organizations assisting those in need, which could be doled out in the form of grocery cards, gas cards and essential supplies.
Canada’s Emergency Preparedness Minister, Bill Blair, has said the federal government will work with provinces to give financial aid to people whose homes were uninsured or uninsurable.
Some living in the most affected communities around the region expressed shock at the level of destruction. In Stanley Bridge, a small, historic village on the north shore of PEI, fishing boats were tossed aside by the storm surge and left in the middle of roads. The main highway into the community was washed out.
“It’s very sad for those of us who lived here all of our lives and our parents lived here,” said Phyllis Carr, her voice breaking with emotion. “Our life is going to change now around our harbour, and our marina and our fishing community and our fishermen.”
In nearby Summerside, PEI, the winds were gusting at 140 kilometres an hour on Saturday as Fiona roared over the island. At East Point, PEI, the winds reached 149 kilometres an hour, as powerful as a Category 1 hurricane.
On Sunday, the owner of Graham’s Deep Sea Fishing, Marvin Graham, sat atop a green floating dock that was picked up by the invading waves and dumped on the town wharf in Stanley Bridge. Outbuildings were scattered nearby. And Mr. Graham’s boat, Greenwitch, was among those shoved ashore and left stranded at odd angles.
“The tide was so high that the boat actually floated all over top to these rocks,” he said.
With a report from the Canadian Press