Nova Scotia

Crews going full tilt in Halifax area to clean up after Fiona

As of Wednesday morning, about 30 streets in the municipality were still fully blocked by downed trees — and that’s after hundreds of trees had already been removed.

Dozens of streets still blocked off by downed trees

Crews are still going full tilt in the Halifax Regional Municipality to clean up after Fiona.

During a press briefing Wednesday afternoon, Nova Scotia Power's storm lead said the majority of customers in the province will have power restored by Friday night. Matt Drover said some may need to wait longer into the weekend and possibly even early next week.

"There are areas that may have been hit harder than others," Drover said.

Drover said there are more than 1,400 people in the field "working around the clock to restore power as quickly and safely possible."

Thousands of trees came down during the storm, impacting Nova Scotia Power's infrastructure, and hundreds of broken poles are in need of repair.

"We are making progress, but a storm of this magnitude and damage like this does take time to clean up," he said.

Erica Fleck, the assistant chief of emergency management for Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency, said as of Tuesday night, about 40 streets in the municipality were still fully or partially blocked by downed trees.

"There's a bit of work that has to be done for sure," Halifax Mayor Mike Savage told CBC Radio's Information Morning. "Everybody's working very hard, just like our roads crew are with getting streets open."

Kirk Fletcher, a certified arborist with Arbor Plant Health Care, based in Grand Lake, N.S., said he's seeing requests for service from as far away as Tatamagouche and Pictou.

"Fiona didn't pick favourites. She spread her wrath kind of around everywhere."

Nova Scotia Power crews cutting downed trees. (Nova Scotia Power/Twitter)

Fletcher said his staff has been working since Saturday to help everyone who calls, but his list is getting longer by the day. His business is prioritizing cases where trees are posing a hazard after falling on houses, service wires, cars and driveways.

"Staff has been working since Saturday just trying to go and do as much as we can for everyone. We wish we were amoebas and could split apart and go faster, but it's just not possible."

Clarence Talbot, who runs Tree Works, has been in the tree-clearing business for 31 years, and says with each major storm, he gets more organized, so he was well prepared for Fiona.

"We had two crews out actually during the storm in the hurricane waiting for it to stop and to be reactive within minutes," he said.

Nova Scotia Power crews and the Canadian Armed Forces working together. (Nova Scotia Power/Twitter)

Crews have been going "flat-out" from 5 a.m. until dark, working with the municipality, Nova Scotia Power, insurance companies and with individual homeowners.

Talbot said the wind in Fiona seems to have come from a direction that had never tested some trees before, which contributed to the damage.

Unlike Hurricane Juan, which seemed to have largely pushed trees down, Talbot said with Fiona, "it seemed like the trees blew up."

"It was as if somebody threw a hand grenade up in the tree and the tree just blew apart, instead of blowing down."

Need for water, food

Fleck, with Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency, said food and water are among the most significant needs right now.

"A lot of food insecurity because of the prolonged power outages, food is well past spoiled by now.… It's not safe to use."

She said the municipality is working with Feed Nova Scotia as well as volunteers and food trucks to make food available.

Fleck said the areas of HRM including Cole Harbour, Bissett Road, all along the Eastern Shore and Tantallon are in need of water.

Apartment building condemned

Alicia Getz and her daughter Mercury are staying at an evacuation shelter in the Canada Games Centre.

They had to leave their home in the Spryfield neighbourhood of Halifax because the roof of their apartment building caved in.

"Highly stressed, but grateful. We're still alive," said Getz. "We have a roof over our head. We have food in our belly. And I know there's a lot of people out there without power and I just wish I could be one that's without power but still have my home."

Mercury Getz, left, and her mother Alicia Getz are staying at an evacutaion centre because the roof caved in on their apartment in Spryfield. (Dylan Jones/CBC)

Getz said the building is now condemned and, while they will be able to return to collect their belongings, they need to find a new home.

"But there's no vacancy, it's extremely expensive…. What's next? I don't know. We're homeless, we're displaced."

Getz said they will be permitted to stay at the centre as long as they need.

"I feel like I'm awake in a living nightmare. I just want to open my eyes and it's like, oh, it's OK, this was just a bad dream. But it's not, it's real."

Power outages persist

After Hurricane Fiona damaged power poles, ripped out trees, and scattered debris across the Atlantic provinces, bringing back electricity has been a challenge.

About 95,000 Nova Scotia Power customers were without electricity Wednesday afternoon, down from more than 400,000 on Saturday. 

In Sydney, 36,000 customers are affected, the highest number in the province. Truro has the second highest number of customers affected at 20,000. 

More than 90 per cent of Halifax customers have their power restored, however, many streetlights are still not working. 

Restoration times in Nova Scotia are constantly changing.  Right now, some estimates suggest power won't be restored until Oct. 5. 

In a video posted on Twitter, Chris Lanteigne, director of care at Nova Scotia power said once teams are able to get more information from the scenes, they will be able to give better estimates of restoration times. 

"The restoration has been more complex than we've ever seen before," said Lanteigne. 

Since Monday, 300 soldiers from the Canadian Army Forces have helped clear debris across the Atlantic region so power crews can access power lines. As of Tuesday, the company had 1,300 crew members in the field. 

Nova Scotia trucks line a road. Matt Drover, Nova Scotia Power's storm lead, said in a news conference Monday that the company’s response is the biggest mobilization the company has ever seen. (Nova Scotia Power/Twitter)

Schools closed for the week

Classes are cancelled for the rest of the week for the approximately 28,000 students who attend schools in the Chignecto-Central, Strait and Cape Breton-Victoria Regional Centres for Education.

All schools in the Halifax Regional Centre for Education are open except for the Atlantic View Elementary school where classes have been cancelled due to a power outage. 

With a file from Feleshia Chandler

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