One year later, Fiona’s ‘terrifying’ impact still felt in Nova Scotia – Halifax

As the Maritimes prepare for the effects of Hurricane Lee, which is expected to arrive in the region on Saturday, some people in Nova Scotia are still dealing with the aftermath of Fiona last year.

The damage to homes and infrastructure has had long-term consequences that are still being resolved – and it all adds to the anxiety as severe weather events become more frequent.

For Sean Casey, it’s something that weighs heavily on his mind.

“We’ve had storms… we’ve had tropical storms, but this was different,” he said from his home in Glace Bay, Cape Breton.

“It was terrifying.”

Sean Casey's home was severely damaged by Hurricane Fiona in 2022. He now worries about what Hurricane Lee will bring to his Cape Breton community.

Sean Casey’s home was severely damaged by Hurricane Fiona in 2022. He now worries about the impact of Hurricane Lee on his Cape Breton community.

Supplied/Sean Casey

Fiona struck Nova Scotia as a post-tropical storm on September 24, 2022. The storm caused significant damage and significant flooding, and at one point approximately 80% of the province was without power .

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The Insurance Bureau of Canada has since estimated the province has recorded more than $385 million in insured losses.

Cape Breton Island was hardest hit by Fiona and the municipality subsequently declared a local state of emergency.

At the height of the event, Cape Breton Regional Municipality Mayor Amanda McDougall sent a message to Cape Bretoners to “stay strong” and would later describe the overnight storm as “surreal.”

Casey’s home, which has been in the family for more than seven decades, was hit hard. The roof of a neighboring house collapsed, while his own roof was torn off, allowing water to flow into the house.

“We were all downstairs, huddled in the living room. We took some mattresses down and thought it was another storm – one that could be bad – but we thought we would huddle here and brave it,” he recalls.

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“We had no idea the extent of the damage.”

In the days, weeks and months that followed, recovery was not easy.

He is grateful to the Mennonite community who helped him in his time of need, securing his roof for the winter before the work was finally completed just four months ago.

United Way Cape Breton worked to coordinate care for those in need.

“They are proud people who love living here. Everyone loves living in Cape Breton,” said Lynne McCarron, general manager of the agency in Sydney, Nova Scotia.

“Like everyone else, they want to be able to provide for their family, provide for their children, and we want to make sure we help them do that.” »

Lessons were also learned.

McDougall admits they now know how to send requests for help directly to the federal government because some details about what support they needed were lost.

She added that disaster financial a*sistance needs to be improved as they are still experiencing the effects of the 2016 storms.

“When you’re heavily in debt from the storms of 2016 because of bureaucracy, (it’s) unacceptable,” she said.

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In addition to homes and livelihoods, the island’s infrastructure has been forever changed.

Heading towards Louisbourg, the fallen trees tell the story. Meanwhile, the famous Lighthouse Trail is still closed because the risks are too great.

“Even though parts of the trail weren’t seriously damaged, there were areas that were literally, literally, totally destroyed,” said Eddie Kennedy of Parks Canada’s Coastal Connections Trail Association.

Those working to protect the island’s hiking trails say there has been a delay in securing government funding. Several studies aimed at a*sessing the damage and bad weather have also slowed down the process.

In total, the work is expected to cost approximately $200,000.

“There’s one particular spot where a whole new cove has been created,” said Carter Stevens, president of the Coastal Connections Trail Association.

“We would all like to see this move forward as quickly as possible, but in this particular case we are still moving forward and we hope to get there by next year, that’s for sure.”

All of this work is happening in the middle of another active hurricane season.

Hurricane Lee, the 12th named storm of the season, is heading toward Nova Scotia and New Brunswick this weekend.

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That said, in Glace Bay, Casey said he would never consider leaving his home.

“If we won the lottery,” he joked.

“But even (then) I wouldn’t do it. It is our house. It’s been in the family forever. »

Leaving him and the others on the lookout for future storms.

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