Stay away from storm damaged areas, EMO official urges, as Fiona cleanup escalates
City of Bathurst also warning residents about storm surges
Even as the threat of Fiona wanes in the southeastern parts of the province, New Brunswick's Emergency Measures Organization is asking people stay away from unnecessarily travelling to storm-damaged areas.
"It's certainly safer in the sense of the storm has passed, but storms also leave a lot of damage in their wake," EMO spokesperson Geoffrey Downey told CBC News early Saturday evening.
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The post-tropical storm lashed Atlantic Canada and eastern Quebec through Saturday, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of households, causing flooding and in extreme cases pulling houses into the ocean.
"Say a water-covered road, you don't know what's happened on it, if there's been any erosion … Maybe it's, you know, known to locals to be full of potholes that they know how to avoid, but with water over it you don't know."
Downey said there's also the risk of getting in the way of emergency response crews.
"I'm really hoping that everyone will, you know, use their best judgment and stay home right now."
Downey said EMO continues to evaluate the damage Fiona has done and is helping residents who need it.
He said one bridge in Shediac was destroyed in the storm while another was significantly damaged. Roads are also covered in water, and he's heard reports of people's trailers getting flipped over.
Downey said some people have also had to leave their homes because of storm damage, though he didn't have an exact number on how many people have sought help from the Red Cross.
Meanwhile, the City of Bathurst is warning residents of hazardous conditions caused by storm surges in the area.
"Water may go over the roads and could even cause certain areas to be inaccessible," the city said in a statement on Facebook.
As a precaution, the city said residents should leave areas near the coast and move inland, adding that the K.C. Irving Regional Centre is being used as a warming centre.
About 500 N.B. Power workers mobilized
With the storm on its way out, it's now "all hands on deck" for crews with N.B. Power, said spokesperson Dominique Couture.
She said about 500 employees are being mobilized in the field in rotating shifts, with some responding to emergency calls, but most focused on restoring power to as many customers as possible.
"Some of the challenges we're facing of course is that you know with the trees being in full foliage — the leaves being very heavy at this time — we've had to do a lot of clearance and vegetation management prior to even beginning to make the necessary repairs to restore power," Couture said.
"So that has impacted our restoration response," she said, adding that more than 86,000 customers initially lost power.
New outages continue to be reported. Crews will continue restoration efforts overnight. Restoration times are actively being updated as damage is assessed.—@NB_Power
Couture said flooding has also limited the ability of crews to access damaged infrastructure.
As of 6:50 p.m. AT, N.B. Power reported 37,250 customers without electricity. The bulk of the outages are in the southeast of the province, with 8,004 in the Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe region and a further 10,301 in the Shediac-Cap-Pelé region.
Couture said with winds still gusting in some regions, the number of outages continues to fluctuate.
She said anyone who observes downed power lines in non-emergency situations can report them online at nbpower.com, or call N.B. Power's customer care line at 1-800-663-6272.
"In terms of downed power lines, we always like to remind the public to stay at least 10 meters away from any downed power lines and treat those downed power lines as if they are live," she said.
Isabelle LeBlanc, spokesperson for the City of Moncton, in an email Saturday afternoon said the city received a few reports of localized flooding early Saturday morning and crews were busy clearing some toppled trees.
She said power outages affected some traffic lights, adding that motorists were being asked to use caution.
Earlier Saturday LeBlanc said two streets were closed because one had a tree across it and the other had a downed pole.
"Over a dozen trees have been reported being down throughout the city so far."
LeBlanc said parks and trails remain closed until crews do a complete sweep and get rid of debris.
She said Codiac Transpo is still operating, but the Magnetic Hill Zoo was closed to ensure the safety of its animals.
She said reports of localized flooding and downed trees can be made to the city's dispatch centre at 506-859-2643 and alerts can be found at monctonalerts.ca.
N.B. Power spokesperson Dominique Couture said the first outages were reported around midnight, but by 6:30 a.m.,16 per cent of impacted customers had already been reconnected.
"The primary cause for outages at this time are tree contacts [on] lines," Couture said.
"We'd like to remind customers to stay away from any downed power lines or impacted trees and report them immediately on our website or at our customer care line."
In a statement released overnight, Premier Blaine Higgs cautioned people to avoid travel if possible and said the province "will work together with our neighbouring provinces to deal with the impact of the storm."
Couture said while no N.B. Power crews have not been sent to Nova Scotia yet, they will be made available if needed.
Flooding in the province's southeast has caused the closure of some roads, including the Foch Bridge in Shediac.
Central and eastern parts of the province remained under a tropical cyclone statement, with areas on the eastern coast also being under storm surge warnings.
Downey said areas on the east coast of New Brunswick recorded wind gusts as strong as 128 km/h.
"That can do a lot of damage, and then it was compounded, of course, with significant storm surge," he said.
"On the plus side, we didn't maybe get as much rain as we thought, but that's a cold comfort."
With files from Aniekan Etuhube