Some Nova Scotians in northern Cape Breton have been able to get around storm-damaged roads by boat, but in another part of Victoria County, others are still cut off and waiting for relief, after heavy rains and high winds battered the region last week.
“It’s very heartbreaking out here,” said Bev MacAskill, who lives on Oregon Road just off the Cabot Trail. “We have no way to get out except by helicopter.”
MacAskill and her 78-year-old father, Angus, live in separate houses next to the North River, where rainfall last week washed away a bridge that connects the MacAskills and a couple farther up the mountain.
MacAskill said her house is fine, but her father’s basement filled with water and the riverbank took away one of his outbuildings.
Another shed is now perched atop the bank. One more storm and MacAskill said the North River could take out her father’s house.
“It’s unbelievable, the damage that’s done,” she said.
Hundreds of millimetres of rain
Last week, a storm battered parts of northeastern Nova Scotia and Cape Breton with more than 100 millimetres of rain and winds gusting as high as 140 km/h. Areas of the Cape Breton Highlands received more than 200 millimetres of rain over the course of three days. On Monday another storm brought 50 millimetres to already soaked parts of Cape Breton, hampering some of the recovery efforts from the previous storm.
On Nov. 26, Nova Scotia’s acting executive director of Public Works, Guy Deveau, said it could be next summer before some larger, permanent structures are repaired. In the meantime, crews are working on detours and temporary bridges to help people left stranded.
Like those in nearby Tarbotvale, the MacAskills have used a plastic milk crate and ropes to get supplies after rain washed out the bridge.
MacAskill’s partner, Darren Barron, was away at work when the bridge washed out and hasn’t slept at home in a week.
On Sunday, Barron came across a narrow part of the river by rope, but the bank became unstable on his way back later that day.
The area got more rain Monday night and the river is running fast again, said MacAskill.
“My father calls him [Barron] the Miracle Man,” MacAskill said. “I wouldn’t want him to come across that again.”
MacAskill said she is thankful a helicopter is ready to help, if needed. She said local officials have been helpful, but the province needs to move faster to reconnect Oregon Road.
“I don’t know what they’re going to do,” she said. “I know it’s hard everywhere, but we’ve been out a week.”
In Tarbotvale, floodwaters cut Rebecca Barron’s driveway in two and took out part of the Tarbotvale Road.
The only way in or out was by taking a vehicle off-road through a field.
Barron said the province moved quickly to rebuild the road near her home, expropriating a piece of her land last week and starting road repairs almost immediately.
“They told us on Thursday afternoon, like around three, and they started the next day,” she said.
Barron said the Tarbotvale Road is now open and crews are working on clearing land to get a temporary bridge across the Barrachois River, where more people are unable to get a vehicle in or out.