The gray water was rising rapidly when Dorothy Fraser ran out of her trailer and saw her six-year-old granddaughter, Grace, on the street calling for help.
The little girl was trying to reach her mother when she got caught in the floods so fast that many residents were trapped inside their houses. Before her grandmother could reach the baby and take him to a safe place, Grace broke her leg. Within minutes, water was flowing a meter deep into the residents’ front doors.
“When I came out, the water was already over my deck. My granddaughter was saying, ‘Nanny, help me!'” said Ms. Fraser. “It was scary. The water just kept coming into my yard. It all happened within 15 minutes.”
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Ms Fraser and her granddaughter were among about 90 residents of the Indian Garden trailer park in Antigonish, NS, who were to be evacuated from their homes on Tuesday. Many in the community fled with clothes on their backs, some pets – victims of a devastating typhoon that washed down roads and highways in eastern Nova Scotia, Cape Breton and Newfoundland and Labrador.
The trail of destruction left by the storm, which dumped upwards of 200 millimeters of rain in parts of Cape Breton and Newfoundland and downed hydroelectric power lines with heavy winds, could take weeks to repair. It cut off some rural communities from the rest of his province as roads disappeared into swollen rivers, including parts of the TransCanada Highway that were washed away.
A state of emergency was declared late Tuesday in Cape Breton’s Victoria County, with schools closed and residents warned to stay off the streets. In Port aux Basques, the largest city in southwestern Newfoundland, stories emerged about increasingly treacherous conditions.
Port aux Basque mayor Brian Button said heavy rain had affected sewer systems and inundated main roads.
“You feel helpless,” he said. “There’s not much you can do.”
Mr Button said the main highway was separated by a washout near the North Branch, NL, the community’s only other link to the rest of the island – a shorter, secondary highway along the southern coast – was submerged by floodwaters, Mr Button said.
“I just got a call from someone – they had to turn back [because] Water is coming on the road,” he said. “We won’t be able to leave Port aux Basque to go too far.”
In Antigonish, residents of Indian Gardens Trailer Park rushed to rescue their neighbors after floods began with little warning on Tuesday morning.
Aaron Cody and Jim Green used a pickup truck and an aluminum boat to transport people to and from their homes. A woman and her young child had to be pulled out of the window of the trailer as they could not open their front door due to the excess water.
“I can’t believe how fast it came,” said Mr. Green. “There were people who could not leave their trailers because they had CPAP machines to breathe. Some of them were very old, and could not get out on their own.”
Antigonish Mayor Laurie Boucher said it has been more than 30 years since her city has been flooded that has reached its main street – but it was unprecedented in terms of the sheer volume of storm water, she said.
“It came so fast and so heavy, the ground couldn’t absorb so much water,” she said. “The weather pattern is very unpredictable now. We are seeing the effects of climate change… In the past, we might not have seen it at this time of year. Normally, it would have been a blizzard.”
Ms Boucher said the storm was another reminder to municipalities like her that they need to upgrade their old flood-management infrastructure, but that many communities have limited budgets to take on major projects like this.
“We need to be prepared for these kinds of storms in the future, and we need to try to minimize the effects of this uncertain weather,” she said.
Barbie Dion, who ran away with her passport, some clothes and the urn of her late dog, said she was delighted to see how their neighbors have come together to help each other. On Wednesday, extension cords connected to generators strung through trailer parks as people tried to save food, restart flooded cars and dry their homes. Piles of rubble were scattered in people’s yards, including oil tanks, which were blown open and flooded the park.
The Red Cross has moved trailer park residents to hotels, but Ms Dean knows this is not a permanent solution for the community where some are wondering how they get started.
“It’s devastating. I can see it in their faces,” she said. “The people who live here don’t have much, and they don’t want to leave their home.”
With a report from the Canadian Press
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