'We makes the best of everything': Resilience in wake of flooding on Newfoundland's west coast

Between heavy rain and sudden warm temperatures causing snowmelt, with frozen ground unable to absorb the water quickly, western Newfoundland is dealing with road washouts, flooding, and millions of dollars of damage.

Corner Brook calls off state of emergency; some towns remain cut off

A view of work underway at Cellar Brook Bridge in Glenburnie, Bonne Bay, N.L. (Submitted by Patrick Anderson)

Corner Brook, N.L., has lifted its state of emergency, while emergency crews continue to assess and repair damage on Newfoundland's west coast from Saturday's flooding. 

Heavy rain and rapid snowmelt caused by unseasonably warm temperatures caused serious flooding, mudslides, road washouts isolating communities — and millions of dollars of damage. 

Repairs started midday Sunday on the washed-out highway to York Harbour and Long Harbour – more than 40 kilometres outside Corner Brook.

"There's no way in and no way out," Lark Harbour Mayor Melanie Joyce told CBC Radio's Weekend AM Sunday morning. 

Repairs of route 450 at Rattler Brook, connecting York Harbour and Lark Harbour to the rest of the island, began late Sunday morning. (Facebook/York/Lark Harbour Volunteer Fire Dept. )

"We did have a situation where Coast Guard had to come in last night to bring in some medication to an individual that ran out," Joyce said.

With a number of people in the communities relying on travel to and from Corner Brook for dialysis treatment, the mayor said the main concern is repairing the highway and ensuring everyone has the medications they need. 

Flooded basements and washed-out side roads are being dealt with. 

"They had a lot of people come out, helping out with their own personal tractors and stuff, people getting out with shovels and helping clear culverts and stuff to get the water moving," said Joyce. 

The York/Lark Harbour Volunteer Fire Dept. asked people to stay away from work repairing route 450 at Rattler Brook Sunday for safety reason. (Facebook/York/Lark Harbour Volunteer Fire Dept. )

'We're Newfoundlanders'

"I haven't seen anything like this here before," said Vanessa Burry of Little Rapids.

The Trans-Canada Highway near Little Rapids was bustling Sunday morning as crews dug to install new culverts where the road had washed out. 

There was no connection between Deer Lake and Corner Brook for hours Saturday, until crews made a single gravel bypass lane and escorted traffic through. 

Burry told CBC Radio's Weekend AM Sunday that she waited in line for about half an hour Saturday to drive to Corner Brook — usually 15 minutes away. 

But she said there's not much damage in her community, particularly compared with Corner Brook, and people are going about their everyday lives. 

"It was on a Saturday. It's not like a lot of people were trying to get to work — I was trying to get to work," she laughed. 

"We're Newfoundlanders, hey, we makes the best of everything!"

'Bracing' for trouble

Humber Arm South, Lark Harbour and York Harbour are still under states of emergency, first declared late Saturday afternoon, and Trout River declared a state of emergency on Sunday.

"Because of the cold weather, we're bracing for some possible water line breaks," Corner Brook Mayor Jim Parsons told CBC Radio's Weekend AM on Sunday. 

He said the city has moved into recovery mode since the rain finally stopped pouring Saturday night. 

"We still have a number of roads closed or blocked in certain places because of the flooding or because of debris and runoff," he said.

"We're really urging caution, and just asking people to stay away from the affected areas as much as possible."

Rainfall warnings had been in effect for western Newfoundland throughout Saturday, but by Sunday morning those had been lifted by Environment Canada.

Below-freezing temperatures were a concern overnight Saturday, with flurries and risk of freezing drizzle expected Sunday. 

Roads reopening, stay off if possible

Updates posted shortly before 12 p.m. by the Department of Transportation and Works indicate the Trans-Canada Highway from Hampden Junction to Deer Lake is open, but drivers are asked to use extreme caution and expect delays. 

The Trans-Canada at George's Lake was open to one lane. 

For the highway to Stephenville, the department said those sections are closed due to water buildup, and drivers should divert to Stephenville Crossing. Deer Lake to Gros Morne Park is open to one lane in certain areas. 

Newfoundland Power was not reporting any outages, but with the most recent update made around 8 p.m. Saturday, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro was hampered in its work to restore power to parts of the Northern Peninsula. 

The Crown corporation said the outage affected Birchy Head, Woody Point, Winterhouse Brook and Trout River after a landslide sent a tree onto the line. A crew left Deer Lake by helicopter Sunday morning to fix it. 

Woody Point has been without power more than 24 hours. That combined with a number of mudslides blocking the main road in and out of town has residents concerned. 

"We've had a lot of mudslides. That was yesterday's thing. The Department of Transportation has most of those cleaned up, and we're watching a few others that could occur," said Woody Point Mayor Greg Osmond.

A mudslide blocked the main road to and from Woody Point on Saturday. (Beverly Burt/Facebook)

"We also have a problem with our bridge in Glenburnie," he said. 

"The bridge has been washing out since yesterday, and is only open now to emergency vehicles. It's fairly dangerous until it's assessed and some work is done there."

Emergency vehicles are able to travel to Norris Point, while roads to Deer Lake were not passable. A backup plan with boat service to Norris Point is also in place should it be needed, he said.

With files from Colleen Connors and WAM