'A lot of cleanup ahead' after Parlee, Murray beaches fall victim to Dorian
‘It’s heartbreaking,’ says park employee of lost sand, toppled trees
Crews have begun assessing and cleaning up New Brunswick's provincial parks left battered by post-tropical storm Dorian — especially at Murray Beach Provincial Park and Parlee Beach Provincial Park, which were hit hard.
Allen Bard, director of Parks and Attractions for the province, estimated the cleanup costs for the two beaches to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
He said both beaches on the Northumberland Strait have been closed for safety reasons, and he isn't sure if they will reopen before the end of the season. The parks' season runs until Sept. 22.
"To be honest, we didn't expect this much damage," Bard said. "I don't think anybody expected this much damage."
The violent winds toppled more than 150 trees at Murray Beach Provincial Park, and powerful waves gouged away about five feet of sand, or more than 1½ metres, from Parlee Beach.
Bard said the province does an annual beach nourishment program in the fall and spring, which will help replenish the sand lost to the storm.
The province has also reached people who have reserved spots at the parks' campgrounds to offer them alternative accommodations.
Shelley Mallery, who works at Murray Beach Provincial Park, said campers felt the brunt of the storm on Saturday night.
"I've been at the park for 26 years, and we have never, never, ever seen anything like what took place on Saturday night," she told CBC's Information Morning Moncton.
"We got a lot of cleanup ahead of us … it's going to be a while."
As the storm worsened, park staff took the campers who remained onsite into the administration office for shelter.
The extent of the damage at Murray Beach was "heartbreaking" for the people who have built a community in the area during their summer vacations, Mallery said.
"It is just devastating … we're all a family," she said.
Klaus and Dorothe Kessel, a couple from Germany staying at the park, chose to ride out the storm in their trailer, where they could keep an eye on their belongings.
Klaus said they began getting worried as they listened to the trees fall outside.
"It was a terrible night," he said. "That's our first time being in such a hurricane. I hope it's the last."
At Parlee Beach Provincial Park, Derek Henderson, a Torontonian who spends his summers at a cottage close to the beach, said the Saturday night storm didn't seem that bad at first.
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But as he watched a nearby creek rise and back up onto the street, he decided to hightail it inland to Moncton at around 7 or 8 p.m.
Seeing the devastation to the beach in the aftermath — especially all the sand that was carried away — was a shock.
"We walked on it Saturday morning, and then Sunday, 24 hours later, [there] was nothing there," Henderson said. "It's wild to see."
'Happy to be alive'
Tara Gratke, who lives close to the beach, described a scene of terror Saturday evening. She said she was trapped in her home as the water began rising in the small community of Pointe-du-Chêne, cutting off road access.
"When the storm surge hit, I couldn't get out. I couldn't get anywhere," she said.
"There was water up to my waist and winds at 100 kilometres an hour. It was terrifying."
She spoke with the RCMP a couple of times on the phone, she said, but there was "no way" she would have been able to get out. Luckily, she was on raised property, so the water only got into her basement.
Gratke said she's happy with the way people in the small community have come together in Dorian's aftermath to offer equipment and supplies to each other.
Despite the damage, she said, what matters is that she and her neighbours came through the storm unhurt.
"My house is fine and I'm happy to be alive," she said.
"I'm here, and I'm healthy, and I'm fine. And that's the best, you know?"