Pam Lovelace understands that it can be exciting to watch the waves during an extreme weather event – like the recent post-tropical storm Lee, which swept through the Maritimes over the weekend – but says people don’t understand not always the danger.
“It’s not prudent. People need to understand that they need to stay away from the coastline,” said Lovelace, a Halifax-area councilor whose district includes the Peggy’s Cove coastal area.
During Saturday’s storm, wave spotters came out in force to coastal areas and beachfronts, despite recommendations from city officials not to do so.
“It is very disheartening to know how many people have ignored the very good advice that has been given to stay away from the coastline during this storm,” she said.
“We need community members to listen to the advice of our professional service management staff. »
Lovelace said during the storm vehicles were seen driving around regional Queensland as rocks and debris were thrown onto the road by the powerful storm surge.
Peggy’s Cove, a popular tourist attraction, had to be closed on Saturday morning and a security guard was tasked with deterring dozens of people from flocking to the area to view the sea.
“I think the message isn’t getting to people that they need to stay away and that’s extremely dangerous,” Lovelace said.
“We need to redouble our efforts to get this message out so people understand the serious dangers. »
The advisor added that people who risk their lives by watching the storm also risk the lives of emergency personnel who may have to rescue them.
“We were very fortunate to have no casualties from this storm, but that hasn’t been the case in the past,” she said.
Lovelace said more education needs to be put in place to keep people away from coasts and the waterfront during storms.
She said the municipality and province should consider imposing emergency fines on people who ignore emergency personnel during future storms, but she also questioned how effective that would be.
“So far we’ve seen that speeding fines don’t deter people, so I’m not sure emergency management fines will deter people,” she acknowledged, “but I think we need to have a conversation about the danger of this. »
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Provincial Emergency Management Office said Nova Scotians are encouraged to follow the advice of authorities to stay safe.
“It’s disappointing when people ignore these messages,” the statement said. “It puts others and themselves at risk.”
The office did not respond to a question from PKBNEWS asking whether it was considering new enforcement measures, such as citations or fines during future weather events.
In fashion now
Dozens of people also flocked to the shores of Halifax and Dartmouth over the weekend to enjoy the waves. One man even decided to go further by jumping into the harbor in a full swimsuit.
In a statement, Build Nova Scotia, which oversees development of the Halifax waterfront, said it worked closely with HRM emergency management before and during the storm to help ensure public safety.
“As the storm progressed, steps were taken to increase the number of security officers available to provide surveillance and HRM provided an increased police presence,” said spokesperson Kelly Rose. “We have also increased the number of barriers established.”
However, Rose said completely closing the waterfront during an extreme weather event would be tricky.
“There are many landowners along the Halifax waterfront and continuous access points. Closing the entire area would likely require declaring a localized state of emergency,” she said.
“After each event, we review last weekend’s events to determine if there is anything more that can be done, additional precautions that could be taken before any event and to ensure compliance when limited closures are required.”
Halifax Regional Police spokesperson John MacLeod said in a statement that officers were patrolling the waterfront area during the storm but were not aware of any incidents.
Regarding potential fines or tickets, RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Guillaume Tremblay said it’s not an offense to be near water during a storm, so none were handed out during Lee.
But he said it was “common” for officers to remind people to stay away from coasts and waterfronts during storms.
“The waves can come up and take a person away in an instant, and the water is very unpredictable,” he said. “It’s a very dangerous place when we face big storms.
“The best place to be is at home, inside your house and away from any waterways.”
— with files from Vanessa Wright
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