Hurricane Igor: What it was like on the ground during, and after, the storm
On Sept. 21, 2010, Hurricane Igor struck eastern Newfoundland. Lee Pitts hit the road for CBC News, and with videographer Eddy Kennedy documented the storm's intense destruction for nine days straight. Watch the videos below as he looks back at footage captured five years ago, and shares some the stories that stuck with him.
Realizing how bad it was
On that first day we were essentially telling the story as it was unfolding, which was a lot of heavy rain, a lot of high winds and particularly we got as far as Clarenville that first day, Placentia and St. John's.
But we didn't actually know at that point the extent of the damage across the eastern part of the province. We didn't know how many people were still essentially cut off, we didn't get a grasp on that until day two and three.
The second day, we went as far as Clarenville. That was essentially as far as we could get because of all the roads that were washed out and cut off going down the Bonavista Peninsula.
I spoke with one homeowner who had their patio just ripped from the house and washed away, so we were looking at this damage and saying, 'Wow, this is crazy, there's a lot of damage here.'
We did our reporting that day from Clarenville, thinking this is much worse than we saw in St. John's, it seems like it's getting worse. And then someone would say, 'Oh, well, it's a lot worse if you go down the Bonavista Peninsula. You should get to Random Island — they're completely cut off.'
We hired a guy in Clarenville who owned his own personal cabin-cruiser [boat] to take us out and when people heard about that, the manager of the Co-op came down and loaded the boat full of food that we could bring over there.
So, we loaded up that boat and then went across to Random Island to see what the damage was like there and people were offloading the boat with food and this was sort of the first shipment of food that arrived.
That was the real sense of, 'This is a lot worse than Clarenville, this is getting worse.'
Loss and destruction
We had been in one gentleman's home where the water had been certainly up to your waist and it had gone now, but the home was essentially destroyed. His furniture, his beds — he said everything he worked for was gone.
The guy who gave me the tour of the house was back in the house with me for the first time since the flooding, and he was looking around realizing this house wasn't going to be salvaged the way it was.
The story he and his wife told me was that they were in bed, because it happened overnight into the morning, and they realized they were getting wet while in bed and the bed had started to sort of float with all the water.
They just grabbed what they could and left, so they left their home in their pajamas and whatever they could just take and got out.
The first time they went back into the house was with me, and they were sort of surveying the damage and realizing everything they had lost, so that one really stood out as well as an emotional story because I was there as it sunk in for them.
You really got a sense that people had lost a lot and were really hit hard by the storm.
Cleaning up and helping out
There was a real sense that they were lucky to be alive, that the storm was significant. It was bigger than anyone anticipated and when you saw the impact of the damage I think there was a real sense of relief.
There was also a real sense of, 'OK this is over now, we now have to pick up and move on, and who needs help first?'
You could see people in each of these communities triaging. Everyone needed something done, whether it's a house repaired or something fixed, or they needed food or what have you.
There were stories of people taking ATVs, boats, hiking through the woods to get to nearby communities to get insulin for one gentleman or to pick up some food or baby formula in another case because they had all run out.
And so there was this real sense that, 'Well, my thing can wait because I've got to help some other person.' It didn't matter which community I was in, that sense I guess of community and resilience came through for everybody.
I think it was the stories of people coming together to help each other out. Those really stood out because it was the average person stepping up and stepping in and saying, 'We've got to solve this problem because we're left to our own devices.'
For me, five years later, that stood out as one of my big memories.
Every day heroics
There was one story I recall in Trouty where the house actually picked up off of its foundation and started to float down the river and they thought it was going to float out to sea, except that it caught up in something and swung around.
But as the house was floating and the family inside were about to lose the house, I believe it was the father who got his wife and children out, and by the time he got them out the house had given way.
It had started to float down the river and the way the story was told to me was that he actually jumped out the front door into the river and swam to safety as the house floated along.
In that same community, apparently an RV or a large trailer camper was picked up and just washed away and never seen again. So there were stories of that kind of damage and heroics, survival, that really stand out.