Four reported missing in floods after historic Nova Scotia deluge

Digital WritersThe Weather Network
Digital Writers

Officials declared a state of emergency in parts of Nova Scotia after historic rains triggered major flash flooding

Provincial officials reported Saturday afternoon that four people remain missing after historic rains triggered catastrophic flash flooding around the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) on Friday.

Additional heavy rainfall around the Halifax area on Saturday added insult to injury after more than 200 mm of rain fell across the area in just four to five hours.

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The intensity of the tropical downpours will cement Friday's deluge in regional weather history, potentially ranking among the most intense one-day rainfall totals ever measured in Canada.

Local officials continued to urge residents to stay off roads and highways this weekend, only venturing out in an emergency. Lingering floodwaters and significant road damage will make travel hazardous in many areas.

Four people reported missing, state of emergency issued

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston announced Saturday in a virtual press conference that the provincial government had issued a state of emergency for the following areas:

  • Halifax Regional Municipality

  • West Hants

  • East Hants

  • Lunenburg

  • Queens

A state of emergency frees up funds and resources to allow officials to respond to the flooding and its aftermath.

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During the press conference, Premier Houston also confirmed that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) are searching for four people who went missing during the floods. All four individuals went missing in West Hants when their vehicles were submerged by floodwaters.

The first vehicle carried five passengers, three of whom escaped and two—both children—were reported missing. High waters submerged a second vehicle carrying four passengers. Two escaped, while two others—a man and a child—were reported missing.

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Crews continued to look for the four missing individuals on Saturday, Houston said, while adding that officials urged local residents not to join in the search because of dangerous conditions that remain throughout the area.

Halifax officials also reminded residents on Saturday to stay away from floodwaters, as the water likely contains hazardous materials like gasoline and raw sewage.

Road closures and evacuation orders in place

Significant and widespread road closures remain in effect across the HRM, with multiple roads and rail lines washed out by the flooding. The City of Halifax provided an interactive map of road closures throughout the HRM on its website.

The Municipality of the District of Lunenburg issued a mandatory evacuation order for residents around Fancy Lake due to excessive rainfall and “the removal of logs from the Public Service Commission Dam,” according to a release on the Municipality’s website Saturday.

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This order was extended through the overnight hours Saturday into Sunday morning, the Municipality said on its website at 6:00 p.m. Saturday.

The evacuation order includes “the area around Fancy Lake, including the lands situated on Conquerall Mills Road from William Hebb Road to Conquerall Road to Highway 103 to Century Drive, including all of Trunk 3,” according to the release.

"Evacuated residents who need overnight accommodations can access shelter at the Nova Scotia Community College located at 75 High Street in Bridgewater starting at 8:00 p.m.," the Municipality's release said, adding that officials will issue further updates on Facebook, Lunenburg's website, and on the radio via CKBW-FM.

In addition to the flooding, Friday’s storms knocked out power to tens of thousands of customers throughout the region through the evening and overnight hours. Nova Scotia Power’s outage data indicated that only about 4,000 customers remained without power by 7:30 p.m. local time on Saturday.

Historic rainfall totals

Widespread rainfall totals of 100-200+ mm fell across the Halifax area, with the heaviest rains hitting communities west and north of Halifax proper. An unofficial total of 251 mm of rain come out of West Bedford on Friday evening. Radar estimates show that some areas may have seen more than 300 mm of rain in just 4 or 5 hours.

Some of the heaviest rain fell over areas devastated by wildfires in late May and early June, which likely exacerbated the extent of the flooding in the affected areas.

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Halifax Nova Scotia Rainfall Totals July 21-22 2023

These are unprecedented rainfall totals for the region, more akin to a heavy rainfall event you’d see somewhere like Florida instead of the Canadian Maritimes. For some perspective, Halifax typically averages about 95 mm of rain during the entire month of July.

A sizable plume of tropical moisture streaming into the region from the south fuelled the heavy rainfall. Persistent thunderstorms tapped into this moisture like a reservoir, efficiently wringing out copious amounts of water over the region.

atm moisture July 21 2023

If you’re in the region, it’s safest to stay home until the rain stops and floodwaters have a chance to recede. Never attempt to drive across a flooded roadway. It’s impossible to tell how deep the water is until it’s too late, and the road may be washed out beneath the floodwaters. Only a small amount of moving water can strand a vehicle and even carry it downstream.

Thumbnail image courtesy of Communications N.S.

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