New Brunswick

Storm surges leave coastal N.B. vulnerable

A climate expert says people in coastal areas in the Maritimes should brace themselves for more storm surges like the one that struck northeastern New Brunswick Monday.

A climate expert says people in coastal areas in the Maritimes should brace themselves in the coming years for more storm surges like the one that struck northeastern New Brunswick Monday.

Several homes and cottages in the village of Charlo, N.B., had to be evacuated Monday due to high tide. A climate change expert at Mount Allison university said those who live in coastal areas should prepare for more storm surges in the coming years. ((Donald Arseneault))

Brad Walters, a geography and environmental studies professor at Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B., said the northern and eastern coasts of the province are particularly vulnerable. On Monday, a storm surge ravaged many properties in the area.

Charlo Mayor André Carrier said some residents had between three and nine metres of their properties washed away, and several homes were evacuated. 

"You've got a combination there of a lot of developments in low-lying areas, particularly where they've in-filled salt marshes and so on," Walter said. "But then you've also got large stretches of coastline where you've got cliffs that are eroding quite quickly, and it's probably going to accelerate with rising sea level and more frequent storm events like this."

Walters said storms like Monday's make discussions at climate change conferences — like the one wrapping up this week in Cancun, Mexico — more relevant to New Brunswick than ever.

Walters hopes Carrier and others affected by changing weather will add their voices to the cause of slowing climate change.

"I'm struck by how, this event in particular, a lot people are actually framing this in terms of climate change for the first time," Walters said. "And I think that's an interesting indication that the collective psyche of people, of decision makers, of the media, and increasingly of just average folk [is] starting to recognize the reality of this problem."