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Could take 'days or weeks' to fix flood-damaged parts of Cape Breton

Wednesday, November 24th 2021, 7:00 pm - Heavy rain washed out many roads in several counties in eastern Nova Scotia

It could be "days or weeks" before things get back to normal in flood-ravaged parts of Cape Breton following the rain and wind storm that swept across Nova Scotia, according to a provincial transportation official.

Jamie Chisholm, the Department of Transportation's eastern district director, said Wednesday the hardest hit areas were Inverness and Victoria counties.

"We've had multiple bridges compromised, some washed out completely, several roads that are impassable right now," he said.

Nova Scotia's Emergency Management Office declared a state of emergency late Tuesday night for Victoria County after heavy rainfall washed out roads. The state of emergency was lifted Wednesday at noon.

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The Cabot Trail, a 298-kilometre loop in northern Cape Breton, is washed out and closed in several spots, Chisholm said, and the Gold Brook Bridge in Middle River has been "compromised" and is shut down.

"A lot of it, we're going to find, I guess, more damage as the water recedes, because it's really hard to tell until the water recedes," he said. "It's probably easier to describe the number of roads that don't have problems than the ones that do."

Many roads are flooded and impassable in Nova Scotia's northeastern counties and across Cape Breton Island.

The Emergency Management Office is asking people in Inverness and Victoria counties to stay off the roads.

Lyle Donovan, EMO co-ordinator in Victoria County, said more than a dozen roads are washed out and a man was injured when his car got stuck on one of the damaged roads.

"People were travelling around, everybody was curious, wanting to see the damage out there. But as we discovered that roads were being undermined and washouts were happening — and they happened, actually, as somebody was driving over them last night and his truck went into a washout area," he said.

cape-breton-flood-cape-breton-highlands A ditch overflows onto the road Tuesday in the Cape Breton Highlands. (Sarah Barrington)

Greg Weir from Victoria County Water Utility said Neils Harbour in northern Cape Breton is under a boil water advisory. He said there's a leak somewhere in the water system but officials don't know where and crews are having trouble getting around due to the condition of the roads.

People in nearby Ingonish are reporting they are essentially cut off because the only roads leading into and out of the community are impassable. The flooding means some residents won't be able to reach hospital in the case of an emergency.

cape-breton-highlands-golf-flooding Several holes at the Highland Links Golf Course remained submerged after Tuesday's heavy rainfall. The screenshots above were taken 24 hours apart, the most recent Wednesday morning. (Stills from Nova Scotia Webcams)

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RAINFALL AND WIND GUSTS

According to preliminary rainfall totals gathered by Environment Canada at 8 p.m. Tuesday, some areas of Cape Breton were hit with more than 100 millimetres. Ingonish Beach recorded 211 millimetres.

Sydney received 150 millimetres, which is short of the 225 mm recorded during the Thanksgiving Day flood in October 2016. That rain event flooded Sydney's Ashby neighbourhood and wiped out about 20 homes.

"Hopefully the rain is going to end soon and the flooding that we're seeing now is about peak," Christina Lamey, speaking for Cape Breton Regional Municipality, said Wednesday morning.

She urged people not to drive past road barricades.

"We've had some instances of people going around barricades and getting stalled in water," she said.

sydney-storm-duckings-swimming-st-peters-road Ducks swimming on St. Peters Road in Sydney, where Wash Brook has overflowed its banks. It's the same Ashby neighbourhood that flooded Thanksgiving Day 2016, where about 20 homes were completely lost. Wednesday morning, streets were flooded and closed from Cabot Street to Townsend Street because of Wash Brook. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Collegeville, south of Antigonish, reported 102 millimetres of rain as of 8 p.m. Tuesday, and Port Hawkesbury received 101 millimetres.

Maximum wind gusts hit 140 km/hr on the Skyline Trail in Cape Breton Highlands National Park and 134 km/hr in St. Joseph du Moine near Chéticamp.

Parks Canada has closed the section of the Cabot Trail from Neils Harbour to Ingonish in Cape Breton Highlands National Park because of flooding. Officials have said they would assess the damage at daybreak.

Inverness County CAO Keith MacDonald said he's received reports of some basements flooded in the Margaree area but hasn't heard of any significant damage to homes. He also said the seven wastewater treatment plants throughout county are all performing well Wednesday morning.

antigonish-flooding-photo The Town of Antigonish, N.S., posted this photo of flooding on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. (Town of Antigonish/Facebook)

ANTIGONISH FLOODING

In Antigonish, public works staff are assessing damage to Route 245 and flooding at the MacDonald Trailer Park, also known as Indian Gardens Trailer Park, off Maclellan Street. Thirty-three people escaped by boat when the park flooded on Tuesday.

William Cormier, deputy mayor for the town, said high tide Tuesday afternoon during the heavy rain, combined with a full moon, restricted how much water could run into Antigonish harbour from West River, Wrights River and Brierly Brook.

sydney-storm-tree-down (1) A large tree fell on power lines on Nepean Street in Sydney’s north-end neighbourhood Wednesday morning. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

"The tide started pushing back and reducing the flow so the water had to go somewhere and that's where we had our backup," Cormier told the CBC's Information Morning.

"So the rain combined with the high tide, full moon, reduced the flow and then those rivers just backed up into the town."

Antigonish Coun. Sean Cameron estimated the water to be more than 1½ metres deep in some places.

Cormier said he's thankful to all the volunteers who helped evacuate the trailer park.

"You know it's a tough thing to see, but you really see people when they come together it kind of brings kind of a tear to your eye how good people are," he said.

Power outages persist Wednesday morning with about 3,000 customers left without service, mainly in Cape Breton. Some of the larger outages included the areas around Linwood, Gabarus, Kempt Head to Big Bank and Christmas Island to Barachois Provincial Park.

Marine Atlantic has cancelled all of Wednesday's crossings between Cape Breton and Newfoundland.

This article was originally published for CBC News.

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