HALIFAX – After hours of unrelenting rain, the roar came so suddenly it woke Helen Kendell. She went outside at 4 a.m. Tuesday to find her daughter frantic with fear — and a “tsunami” of water coming down Main Street in Morrisville, N.L.
“It took everything in its path. It was a foaming river, it was unreal,” Kendell said from her home in the community of about 100 residents in the Bay d’Espoir region.
“My daughter was just screaming. She said, ‘Mom, we’re all going to be drowned,’ because we didn’t know what was happening. I lived here almost 60 years and I’ve never seen anything like this before. It was frightening.”
In Morrisville, and much of Atlantic Canada, cleanup efforts were underway Tuesday after a storm that brought torrential rain and strong winds, leaving thousands without power and washing out roads.
Among the worst hit was Cape Breton, which was hit by more than 200 millimetres of rain. Wayne MacDonald, director of public works for the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, said Tuesday morning the extent of flooding damage is not yet known.
“Manhole covers have come off due to the pressures and in areas there is… damage that cannot be seen yet with the waters this high,” MacDonald told a news conference.
Photos on social media showed water reaching up to a car window in Cape Breton, waves battering the Canso Causeway and firefighters wading through nearly waist-deep water.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, states of emergency were declared in several communities. Photos posted on Twitter showed chewed-up roadways littered with debris, a car on its side and a destroyed bridge in St. Alban’s.
One photo posted on Facebook showed an overturned truck amid the wreckage of sheds and other debris in Morrisville.
Kendell said four houses in the community were badly damaged — in one case by a shed that had been pushed into it by the waters.
“So much of the pavement is gone, (the water) brought trees and rock; the debris on our lawn is unreal,” she said. “It was unreal. It took four sheds and a couple of cars, It was devastating.”
The road into Morrisville is washed out, and it is unclear when it might again be passable.
In Nova Scotia, the government released a list of 20 roads described as “closed or partially closed.”
All schools in the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board were shut down Tuesday and comfort centres opened in North Sydney, Sydney and Reserve Mines.
Nova Scotia Power said there were a total of 144,000 outages across the province, and 45,000 homes and business were still without power Tuesday afternoon.
Most customers would regain power by 11 a.m. Thursday, the utility said.
“Washed out roads and flooding are impacting our ability to get to some outage areas as power crews work tirelessly to restore electricity to customers,” power spokesman Steve Pothier said in a news release.
“Due to the flood waters, there may also be structural damage to poles due to water erosion that we may not be able to know until the water subsides.”
Environment Canada said much of mainland Nova Scotia had received more than 100 millimetres of rain as of Monday evening.
Halifax RCMP and Maritime Electric in P.E.I. were asking drivers to use caution because of water on the roads coupled with downed trees and power lines.
In Newfoundland, residents and gas stations in St. Alban’s were being asked to conserve fuel so there was enough diesel for heavy equipment and gas for emergency vehicles.
The town was asking the public to stay off roadways unless it is an emergency.
“There are many areas of town cut off… including access to (the road) going out of town,” St. Alban’s officials said on Facebook. “Less traffic will facilitate the work to get roadways at least temporally passable.”
Cape Breton police chief Peter McIsaac said extra staff had been brought in to deal with an overwhelming number of calls. He said officers had responded to people stranded in vehicles.
“We’re having a problem with people not paying attention to the barricades… We have people who are going around the barricades and getting themselves into trouble and it’s also interfering with the Public Works crews who are trying to get infrastructure back in shape,” said McIsaac at a news conference.
The Confederation Bridge connecting P.E.I. and New Brunswick was open Tuesday and traffic was running smoothly.
— with files from Rob Roberts.