Quebec taxi driver missing in Irene aftermath

The search for a missing Quebec motorist whose car was swallowed in raging waters during post-tropical storm Irene's eastern Canadian assault continues, as helicopters south of the border race to deliver aid to dozens of U.S. towns devastated by flooding.

U.S. National Guard helicopters rush food, water to flooded Vermont towns

Workers remove a huge tree that came down on an apartment in central Montreal because of high winds and rain from remnants of Hurricane Irene on Monday. (Peter Ray/Canadian Press)

The search for a missing Quebec motorist whose car was swallowed in raging waters during post-tropical storm Irene's eastern Canadian assault continues, as helicopters south of the border race to deliver aid to dozens of U.S. towns devastated by flooding.

Quebec Police said Tuesday they had recovered 68-year-old taxi driver Réal Nadeau's empty car, after it disappeared in the Yamaska River on Monday. But the search for Nadeau is still on.

He had been driving on a road about 100 kilometres northeast of Montreal on Monday when fierce winds and rain caused a culvert to collapse, washing away part of the street. Nadeau's brother, Emile, said he hoped Réal would be found soon.

The violent weather that battered Quebec and the Maritimes may have contributed to the death of an 81-year-old man who left on foot from a cabin in the St-Gérard-des-Laurentides area as post-tropical storm Irene approached Canada on Sunday.

The elderly man, whose name has not been released, was found unconscious and later died in hospital.

Investigators believe the man may have been trying to reach his family at a home about 12 kilometres away when he left the cottage Sunday on foot.

In the U.S., urgent help in the form of food and water — delivered by National Guard choppers — was on the way Tuesday to several inland New England towns taken by surprise in the deluge.

U.S. airlifts to cut-off towns

National Guard helicopters were taking food and water Tuesday to about a dozen flood-ravaged Vermont towns cut off by washed-out roads and damaged bridges.

About a dozen towns in the southern part of the state were rendered inaccessible to vehicular traffic after heavy rainfall from the remnants of Hurricane Irene on Sunday.

Deputy state Transportation Secretary Sue Minter said state crews hope to re-establish ground contact with all isolated communities by the end of the day.

About 20,000 Vermont utility customers remain without power, but crews can't begin to restore power until they can reach the affected communities.

Vermont Emergency Management spokesman Mark Bosma says that in addition to Guard helicopters, special trucks are carrying emergency supplies to towns whose roads may be passable for them but not for the public.

Vermont was among the hardest hit of the Eastern Seaboard states slammed by Irene, which left at least 48 killed by the storm, including 43 in the continental U.S. and Puerto Rico. Millions of people were also still without electricity, and utilities warned it could take several days before people get their power back.

-The Associated Press

Although Irene has been blamed for killing at least 48 people, the storm has not yet been linked to any fatalities in Canada.

Tens of thousands still without power

The focus Tuesday was also on recovery and cleanup efforts as crews resumed their work to restore power after thousands were left without electricity in the Maritimes and Quebec.

After smacking southern Quebec on Sunday with heavy rain and howling winds, the system once called Hurricane Irene churned northeast Monday across the province and into Atlantic Canada.

In New Brunswick, progress is being made by NB Power, which has reduced the number of customers without electricity from more than 50,000 on Monday to about 9,000 Tuesday morning as high winds blew trees onto power lines and transformer fires were started during the weekend storm.

Aided by 12 crews from other provinces, New Brunswick teams have been working long hours to restore service, says NB Power spokeswoman Heather MacLean. About 4,400 customers are still without power in Fredericton. Almost 3,000 in Rothesay and a few thousand more in other pockets are still waiting to get their electricity back. But the utility said it could take until Wednesday or Thursday to achieve that.

"We'll see some cleanup today, but just because of the sheer number of separate incidents that we have throughout the province, we are going to be going into tomorrow and possibly into early Thursday morning," MacLean said.

Severe flooding has also left residents in the west end of Oromocto — one of the areas hit by heavy rains, with more than 80 millimetres falling during the storm — with a massive cleanup after Sunday's flash flooding.

Mayor Faye Tidd said the fire department received 42 calls from residents reporting everything from minor flooding to major damage.

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"The assessment they made was that some of them, eight houses, should really have electric inspectors come and take a look. They weren't taking any chances," he said.

Fredericton received 53 millimetres of rain, but the Doaktown area of central New Brunswick was hit the hardest, receiving 89 millimetres.

In Quebec, where the storm washed out roads, knocked down trees, and downed power lines, 25,000 clients were still without power Tuesday morning, compared to the 250,000 customer outages during the storm's peak Sunday, according to Hydro-Québec.

Most of those affected are in the Montérégie and Quebec City areas. In Montreal, power has been restored to most of the city.

But even losing power for a couple of days is enough to have an impact on customers, including business owners. 

Restaurant owner Syed Shahzad Shah, for one, runs a Pakistani and Indian restaurant in Montreal's Park-Extension neighbourhood, and estimates he lost $5,000 worth of food.

Shah said it was a bad time to suffer the fallout from Irene, since Monday was the eve of the Muslim holiday of Eid.

"I called to my customers [to say], 'Sorry, your reservation is cancelled,' so they [were] angry with me," he said.

Others affected by the storm included owners of about 300 homes in Quebec that were evacuated because of rising river waters.

A highway that was partially washed out by the storm in the Charlevoix region has been reopened.

Power outages in N.S., P.E.I.

Irene didn't soak Nova Scotia so much, but it did bring high winds.

Power is slowly being restored to about 17,000 customers who lost their electricity Monday morning. The outages stretched from Yarmouth in the southwest to Sydney in Cape Breton.

In P.E.I.., the high winds from post-tropical storm Irene caused travel restrictions and led to power outages and downed trees on Monday. A wind warning remained in effect for most of the day.

The largest outage was in the Wellington West area in the morning. About 6,000 customers were affected when a tree fell on a power line in Richmond, but power was restored within a couple of hours.
A man and his daughter scramble across the shoreline rocks after being hit by a wave on Sunday in Peggy's Cove, N.S. (Mike Dembeck/Canadian Press)

P.E.I. transportation officials were also out on the roads Monday cleaning up fallen trees and broken limbs.

All in all, though, Canada appeared to emerge relatively unscathed from the remnants of the powerful hurricane that left millions of Americans without power.

Ryan Snoddon, a CBC meteorologist based in St. John's, said Irene's remnants will make for unusually humid weather in much of Newfoundland and Labrador. 

"Those gusty southwest winds will also be pumping in very warm and sticky temperatures [with] humidex values into the 30s," Snoddon said. "Thanks to Irene, the forecast high in St. John's is 27 degrees. That would be the warmest temperature the city has seen all summer long."