Resident fears home vulnerable to sea after storm erodes ocean barrier

Marguerite Wade said in the 50 years she's lived near Big Lake in East Chezzetcook, N.S., she's only seen a breach in the wall between the sea and the lake one other time.

'The unfortunate part is mother nature doesn't wait until Monday'

Marguerite Wade walks along the natural, stone barrier that separates the freshwater lake beside her home from the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday. This week's weather bomb ripped a hole through the wall and now she's worried her home will flood if it isn't fixed. (Emma Davie/CBC)

From Marguerite Wade's home in East Chezzetcook, N.S., she can watch — and hear — enormous waves crashing against the natural rock barrier that separates the freshwater lake in front of her home, from the Atlantic Ocean.

But what might normally be a soothing sound now has Wade filled with worry.

This week's weather bomb brought winds and storm surges so severe they tore open the wall-like structure, leaving the homes along Big Lake — also known as Meisner's Lake — vulnerable to the sea.

The barrier ripped in the natural wall by Thursday's storm could only be seen from a distance, as the rest of the wall has become vulnerable to breaks. (CBC)

Wade said in the 50 years she's lived along the lake, she's only seen this happen once before, less than a decade ago.

"It didn't have a prayer this time," she said of the possibility of the wall withstanding Thursday night's storm.

"My first look [in the morning] is always where that hole was eight years ago. And I looked and I saw it coming in, I saw big waves."

Trying to inspect the damage

The hole in the stone barrier meant the freshwater lake drained into the ocean at a rapid pace on Saturday morning, leaving only patches of ice behind. Normally, Wade said the lake is about six feet deep. 

Wade worries that when the tide rolls in, the erosion to the barrier will allow the lake to overfill.

"When the tide goes out, the lake fills into the ocean. So it's constantly wearing back and forth on the wall...It will eventually deteriorate and flood out the homes around the lake," she said.

Marguerite Wade speaks from her home in East Chezzetcook, N.S. She's lived in the area for 50 years and has only seen a hole in the wall one other time. (Emma Davie/CBC)

Wade tried to go and inspect the damage on Saturday afternoon.

The only way to get to the break in the natural stone barrier is by walking along its edge. But about halfway there, Wade noticed two smaller holes. There wasn't water passing through them yet, but with the tide coming in, she didn't want to risk heading out any further. 

Risk of flooding

The freshwater lake comes from a stream, which gathers here next to Long Beach Road in East Chezzetcook, N.S. (Emma Davie/CBC)

Wade says if the lake begins to overflow with sea water, it will follow the stream that feeds the freshwater lake and end up flooding her home and a dozen others. There's also the fear it could wash out two nearby roads.

She said when the wall was breached eight years ago, the province's Department of Natural Resources brought in specialists who were able to fix the wall before flooding happened.

On Friday, Wade contacted the department, but she was told only that someone would be in touch next week.

"The unfortunate part is mother nature doesn't wait until Monday. So we sit here and wait and wonder," she said.

Area to be assessed: DNR

Spokesperson for DNR, Bruce Nunn, told CBC in an email that staff were conducting an inventory of coastal park land damages on Friday.

"The land breach at East Chezzetcook was identified for a full assessment and consideration of options over the coming days," he said.

"We continue to urge people visiting provincial park lands especially in coastal areas to use care and caution."

Wade wishes the department would at least make contact with the residents to let them know whether they should be prepared to leave their homes.

"What do we do? I've got chickens running around here, wrap them up and put them in a lifeboat I guess," she said, chuckling.

"But it's very devastating....It's the unknown."