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Port aux Basques residents hunker down while storm-damaged roads are fixed

Friday, November 26th 2021, 5:00 am - Roads could take up to a week to repair

Lineups at grocery stores in the Channel-Port aux Basques, N.L. area are a little longer as the provincial government starts repairing washed-out roads, but the premier says he's not worried about a lack of supplies.

Some residents say they're taking a potentially prolonged isolation in stride.

"There's not much you can do about it. I'm kind of upset because I have to go see someone at the home in Stephenville Crossing and I can't get to see her. But other than that, it's nature," said Marlene Renouf, who wasn't able to find bread or eggs at the Foodland in Channel-Port aux Basques.

The provincial government announced brief details on road repairs Wednesday, after an unprecedented rainstorm dumped more than 200 millimetres of rain on the region and washed out the Trans-Canada Highway — which connects the region to the rest of Newfoundland — in four places.

Repairs began Thursday once the rain subsided.

pab-residents-grocery-store From left to right: Marlene Renouf and Samantha and Steve LeFrense were among Port aux Basques-area residents stocking up at the grocery store Thursday morning. Damaged roads have cut the region off from the rest of the province. (Danny Arsenault/CBC)

For Steve and Samantha LeFrense, the road closures mean they're staying put for the next little while.

"I'm sure in a few days we'll be back up and running there. They'll get the roads fixed. I know they got a lot of crews ready to go and start working on it," Steve said.

"Most of my friends are in Corner Brook for school.… I don't think any of them are coming home for the weekend anymore," Samantha added.


Not all residents feel the same way.

Kathy Findlay, a local home-care worker picking up goods for her patient, said the storm is the latest chapter in a story of tricky roads in the region.

"I feel like if the government had kept up on the infrastructure on the highway at this end of the province, maybe we wouldn't be in this situation," Findlay said, adding that the road from Port aux Basques to Stephenville has always been terrible in the 12 years she's lived in Newfoundland.

kathy-findlay Kathy Findlay says she hopes the roads will be restored quickly. (Danny Arsenault/CBC)

She said she's worried about an extended closure of the road, along with the decision by Marine Atlantic to pivot the delivery of goods to Argentia, on the other side of the island, believing Port aux Basques residents will be cut off either way.

"If they move the ferry to, say, Argentia and ship goods into that, then we're going to be stuck," said Findlay.

Premier Andrew Furey said Thursday that officials are prepared to deal with the potential disruptions by flying in supplies if needed. Food and pharmaceuticals are among the top priorities, according to the premier.

"We'll triage it appropriately," Furey said. "But obviously, health and safety is the No. 1 priority, so that would be kind of top of the triage pyramid. After that, we'll see."

This article was originally published for CBC News with files from Patrick Butler.

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