Communities in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland are recovering after being slammed by the remnants of Hurricane Matthew and a system off the coast of the Carolinas.

Thousands of people in Cape Breton are preparing to spend 40 hours without electricity as Nova Scotia Power works overtime to reconnect them. 

About 50,000 Nova Scotia Power customers lost electricity Tuesday after high winds and heavy rain felled power lines Monday.

WEA Maritimes Heavy Rain 20161011

Vehicles struggled with high water in a residential area of Sydney, N.S., on Tuesday. Thousands were still without power in Nova Scotia and some communities in Newfoundland and Labrador were under a state of emergency after torrential rain and strong winds blasted the region. (Vaughan Merchant/Canadian Press)

Flooding and fallen trees hamper recovery

Sasha Irving, spokeswoman for the power company, said crews had restored power to most of mainland Nova Scotia by 6 p.m. Tuesday, with a few pockets expected to come back by 11 p.m.

That leaves about 30,000 customers still in the dark — mostly in Cape Breton. Irving said those people will have to make do without electricity overnight Tuesday, all day Wednesday, and into Thursday. The power company set a target of 11 a.m. Thursday to have all the power back on. 

"Safety is absolutely our No. 1 priority, both for our crews and our customers," she said. 

Fallen trees and flooded roads are making it hard to fix power lines. The main cause of lost power is trees falling on lines, she said. 

Sydney under water near Cottage Road and Cabot Street

A park near Cottage Road and Cabot Street in Sydney was submerged after heavy rain on Monday. (Tim L'Esperance/Vision Air Services)

At the worst of it, 80,000 customers lost power in 169,000 outages. Nova Scotia Power currently has:

  • 95 crews working to restore power today.
  • 27 tree-cutting crews clearing fallen trees.
  • 20 extra crews coming from NB Power.

The Sydney area got about 225 millimetres of rain on Monday, according to unofficial numbers from Environment Canada. The rain resulted in flooding that led to street closures, mostly in Sydney and Glace Bay.

Thousands of basements flooded

"We have thousands of homes with flooded basements with water and sewer in some cases," said Cecil Clarke, the mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. 

It's too early to say how much the storms will cost Nova Scotia, but Clarke anticipates it will be "millions and millions."

Clarke said the weather has "stretched the resources of the region and municipality," but the most important thing is that people are safe.

"We haven't suffered a loss of life," he said.

St. Alban's Bridge damage

The town of St. Alban's, N.L., was cut off from surrounding communities when the main bridge into town was washed away. (Melissa Burke/Twitter)

After taking its toll on Cape Breton, the weather system moved on to Newfoundland, dumping more than 150 millimetres of rain and forcing some communities to declare states of emergency. 

The weather caused accidents and road washouts across the island

The town of St. Alban's, a community of about 1,200, was cut off from surrounding communities when the main bridge into town — the five-metre-high, 41-metre-long Swanger Cove Bridge — was washed away.

Whitney Ave flood damage

Floodwaters eroded a culvert on Whitney Avenue near the intersection with Hospital Street in Sydney. (Norma Jean MacPhee/CBC)

Fresh crews started work Tuesday morning, replacing those who worked all night to restore power.

Sydney's 225 millimetres of rain shattered its previous record for extreme daily rainfall, set when 128.8 millimetres fell on Aug. 17, 1981.

Nova Scotia Power has opened its emergency operations centre in Ragged Lake, N.S., for the first time since the winter. It will be staffed 24/7 by senior company leaders specially trained in storm management, who will direct crews on the ground until all power is restored, Ware said.

Nova Scotia Power is asking anyone who sees downed power lines to stay away from them and call 1-877-428-6004 to let crews know.