Nova Scotia

Could take 'days or weeks' to fix flood-damaged parts of Cape Breton

The storm that swept across Nova Scotia has left a trail of destruction in its wake, including flooded homes and businesses, and washed-out roads.

Heavy rain washed out many roads in several counties in eastern Nova Scotia

100 millimetres of rain led to flood, N.S. deputy mayor says

1 year ago
Duration 6:21
Rain, plus the high tide, restricted the flow of water into Antigonish harbour, said Deputy Mayor William Cormier, causing three rivers to back up and flood parts of the town.

It could be "days or weeks" before things get back to normal in flood-ravaged parts of Cape Breton following the rain and wind storm that swept across Nova Scotia, according to a provincial transportation official.

Jamie Chisholm, the Department of Transportation's eastern district director, said Wednesday the hardest hit areas were Inverness and Victoria counties. 

"We've had multiple bridges compromised, some washed out completely, several roads that are impassable right now," he said.

Nova Scotia's Emergency Management Office declared a state of emergency late Tuesday night for Victoria County after heavy rainfall washed out roads. The state of emergency was lifted Wednesday at noon.

Parts of the Cabot Trail, a 298-kilometre highway loop in northern Cape Breton, are washed out and closed, Chisholm said, and the Gold Brook Bridge in Middle River has been "compromised" and is shut down.

A man tried driving through flood waters on St. Peters Road in Sydney, N.S., Wednesday morning and got stuck. (Holly Connors/CBC)

"A lot of it, we're going to find, I guess, more damage as the water recedes, because it's really hard to tell until the water recedes," he said. "It's probably easier to describe the number of roads that don't have problems than the ones that do."

The Emergency Management Office is asking people in Inverness and Victoria counties to stay off the roads. 

Lyle Donovan, EMO co-ordinator in Victoria County, said more than a dozen roads are washed out and a man was injured when his car got stuck on one of the damaged roads.

"People were travelling around, everybody was curious, wanting to see the damage out there. But as we discovered that roads were being undermined and washouts were happening — and they happened, actually, as somebody was driving over them last night and his truck went into a washout area," he said.

A ditch overflows onto the road Tuesday in the Cape Breton Highlands. (Sarah Barrington)

Greg Weir from Victoria County Water Utility said Neils Harbour in northern Cape Breton is under a boil water advisory. He said there's a leak somewhere in the water system but officials don't know where and crews are having trouble getting around due to the condition of the roads. 

People in nearby Ingonish were reporting they are essentially cut off because the only roads leading in and out of the community were impassable Wednesday morning. Victoria County Coun. Larry Dauphinee said late Wednesday morning the road to Ingonish from Sydney had reopened. 

He said there's still a major blockage on the other side of the community on the Cabot Trail just past the Broad Cove Campground. It means the community is cut off from Buchanan Memorial Hospital in Neils Harbour.

Several holes at the Highland Links Golf Course in Ingonish, N.S., remained submerged after Tuesday's heavy rainfall. The screenshots above were taken 24 hours apart, with the most recent, on the bottom, taken Wednesday morning. (Stills from Nova Scotia Webcams)

Rainfall and wind gusts

According to preliminary rainfall totals gathered by Environment Canada at 8 p.m. Tuesday, some areas of Cape Breton were hit with more than 100 millimetres. Ingonish Beach recorded 211 millimetres.

Sydney received 150 millimetres, which is short of the 225 millimetres recorded during the Thanksgiving Day flood in October 2016. That rain event flooded Sydney's Ashby neighbourhood and wiped out about 20 homes.

"Hopefully the rain is going to end soon and the flooding that we're seeing now is about peak," Christina Lamey, speaking for Cape Breton Regional Municipality, said Wednesday morning, urging people not to drive past barricades. 

"We've had some instances of people going around barricades and getting stalled in water."

Terry Drohan stands Wednesday morning in front of the lot where his former home once stood in Sydney, N.S. It had to be demolished after extensive damage from the 2016 Thanksgiving storm. (Holly Connors/CBC)

Terry Drohan, who used to live on St. Peters Road in Sydney before the 2016 flood damaged his home beyond repair, visited the now empty lot after this week's rainstorm. 

"There it is, a lake again five years later."

This vehicle stalled after it got in deep water in a nearby location. It had to be towed. (Holly Connors/CBC)

He bought a home on Park Street, two blocks away and said he had a "pretty hectic" Tuesday night.

"My sump pumps lasted until around 11 o'clock last night and then the water came up so high that it started coming in through the basement doors, so my basement's completely flooded," he said.

Collegeville, south of Antigonish, reported 102 millimetres of rain as of 8 p.m. Tuesday, and Port Hawkesbury received 101 millimetres.

Maximum wind gusts hit 140 km/h on the Skyline Trail in Cape Breton Highlands National Park and 134 km/h in St. Joseph du Moine near Chéticamp.

Parks Canada has closed the section of the Cabot Trail from Neils Harbour to Ingonish in Cape Breton Highlands National Park because of flooding. Officials have said they would assess the damage at daybreak.

Inverness County CAO Keith MacDonald said he's received reports of some basements flooded in the Margaree area but hasn't heard of any significant damage to homes. He also said the seven wastewater treatment plants throughout the county are all performing well Wednesday morning.

Community of White Point cut off

Murdock Burton who lives in White Point, located about 170 kilometres north of Sydney, said people in his community are cut off from the rest of the island because of road washouts.

He shared dramatic photos on Facebook Wednesday morning showing the damage.

Murdock Burton posted this photo to Facebook of the White Point Road, which was wiped out by heavy rains, cutting off the local residents from the rest of Cape Breton. (Murdock Burton/Facebook)

"This is probably, by the far, the worst we've ever seen. You know, never seen that much rain in a short period," Burton said.

Burton estimated 20 to 30 people are affected by the road washout in his area.

"We're kind of used to it in a way, we grew up in the country and it comes with the job," Burton said. "But we often wonder, if something happened, how would we get out? We hope there's no emergency or anything like that."

Antigonish flooding

In Antigonish, public works staff are assessing damage to Route 245 and flooding at the MacDonald Trailer Park, also known as Indian Gardens Trailer Park, off Maclellan Street. Thirty-three people escaped by boat when the park flooded on Tuesday.

WATCH | Dramatic washout on Highway 245 Tuesday, north of Maryvale and Antigonish:

Power outages persist Wednesday afternoon, with about 200 customers left without service, mainly in Cape Breton, with the bulk in Sydney and River Bourgeois.

Marine Atlantic has cancelled all of Wednesday's crossings between Cape Breton and Newfoundland.

Nova Scotians assess damage after storm

1 year ago
Duration 9:00
Massive amounts of rain washed out roads and flooded basements in the province. Cape Breton and Antigonish bore the brunt of it.


  • A previous version of this story said the state of emergency was for Inverness and Victoria counties. In fact, Inverness County was not under a state of emergency.
    Nov 24, 2021 9:19 AM AT

With files from Information Morning


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