Nfld. & Labrador

Newfoundland town hit by Rafael damage

Post-tropical storm Rafael may not have made landfall in Newfoundland, but it made its presence known on the Southern Shore on Thursday.
Vivian Corrigan shot this video in Trepassey, N.L. on Thursday. 1:37

Residents of the small Newfoundland community of Trepassey are reeling in the wake of post-tropical storm Rafael.

The storm may not have made landfall in Newfoundland, but it made its presence known on the Southern Shore on Thursday.

Rafael caused a storm surge in Trepassey, with waves pounding and damaging the town's breakwater.

Local resident Vivian Corrigan took a video of the waves, which soared over the community's wooden breakwater barrier, tearing apart three sections of it, allowing waves to wash over a road and into the harbour.

"The damage is really severe," said Mayor Con Finley.

"When you talk to some of the older residents of Trepassey," he said, "they will tell you that they've never seen anything like this."

Extensive damage

More than three feet of rock was left covering Piles Head Road, which is located on a narrow strip of land on the southwest bend of Trepassey, joining two parts of the town.

Finley said there is now a 30 foot gap in the road, about 5 feet deep.

There is also a half kilometre section of pavement that was lifted up by the pressure of the storm surge.

As a result, the area known as the Lower Coast is now accessible by four-wheel drive vehicles only, leaving about 50 people who live in 26 homes in that neighbourhood cut off.

Emergency service vehicles, such as fire trucks, would also be unable to pass.

Finley said MHA Keith Hutchings told him Friday morning that they will receive emergency funding to get the road opened as soon as possible.

Contractors are already on site doing repairs, such as back-filling the road bed with gravel, and the mayor expects the road to be passable in one lane by the end of the day.

Crews will also bring in large stones to rebuild a barrier between the road and the ocean.

However, the mayor is worried that won't be enough to protect the road, as it's unlikely to withstand much surf.

Money worries

With overall repairs being estimated to cost between $1-2 million, Finley is also concerned the small town might not be able to afford the work.

"It's quite a huge chunk of money for a small community to contribute, even their 10% of that," said Finley.

"At the present time, our community is down from about 2,000 to 500 people. Most of our community is senior citizens. Our tax base is pretty small, so we are struggling as it is just to maintain what we have. We don't have extra money for this."

Resident Sharon Topping took photographs of the storm surge on Thursday.

"The wind wasn't an issue, it was the waves," said "Sometimes when they would hit the breakwater, they looked like they were almost the height of the telephone poles down there."

One truck was stranded on the road, as the occupants had to abandon it and walk instead.

"We [saw] a couple of vehicles try to manoeuvre the road but they had to turn around," said Topping.

Topping had a bit of a close call with the waves herself, as she shot video and photographs of the storm surge.

"I wasn't standing close. I was standing in a grassy field, far away from the shore. But one surge brought the water over the grassy field, and actually knocked me to my knees," said Topping.

But she admits she wasn't afraid for her safety.

"All I was scared of was my camera," she said with a chuckle. "I knew I wasn't going to get swept away, but I didn't want to get my camera wet."

Meanwhile, about 16-18 surfers were seen enjoying the waves off Biscay Bay, about 8 km from Trepassey, during the surge.

Rafael has now made its way past the island and is far out into the Atlantic Ocean.