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Cleanup, school closures continue after powerful hurricane Dorian rips through Maritimes

A couple of men work on dismantling a metal roof from a boathouse in Herring Cove that was blown into the water during Dorian.
A couple of men work on dismantling a metal roof from a boathouse in Herring Cove that was blown into the water during Dorian. - Ryan Taplin

Dorian hit Nova Scotia as advertised and the effects will be felt for days.

Most residents will get the message when it comes to having their power restored after Saturday’s intense storm.

About 147,000 customers were without power across the province as of 5:30 p.m. on Monday. In an update earlier in the afternoon., the utility said it had reduced estimated times of restoration for more than 100 large outages affecting 37,000 customers in Cape Breton and northeastern Nova Scotia. 

"We expect to have power back for these customers by late Tuesday," NSP said on its website. "Our damage assessors have also identified approximately 4,500 outages across the province that are single-customer outages. This means one repair will restore electricity to one customer. Estimated restoration times will be extended to Thursday for many of these customers.

"We know it’s frustrating and that customers want their power back as soon as possible —that’s what we want too. We’ll work closely with customers through this process."

Public schools across Nova Scotia will remain closed Tuesday, the Nova Scotia's Education Department announced Monday afternoon after consulting with the Emergency Management Office. Schools were also closed on P.E.I. on Monday but no plans had been announced for Tuesday.

Canada Post issued a "red alert" Monday that mail would not be delivered to metro Halifax. They will attempt to deliver mail and parcels to other parts of Nova Scotia and on P.E.I. 

On Sunday, the utility's CEO Karen Hutt said Dorian had an incredible impact on the province’s electricity system.

“At the peak of the storm, we had over 400,000 of our customers without power,” Hutt said Sunday.

“Last night, once the wind subsided and it was safe to do so, crews began their initial patrols to assess storm damage, and they also began restoring power.”

Four helicopters were in the air attempting to detect damage to the power system, Hutt said.

“This is an exercise of days, not hours,” she said. 

“It’s just not feasibly possible to do it that quickly.”

If someone without power was able to access the utility’s online outage map Sunday, they found broad restoration estimates. 

“These will be refined as we gather more field-validated information and begin to have a better understanding of when we can give more specific times for customers,” Hutt said.

Dorian has led to the largest mobilization of personnel in the utility’s history, said Hutt, with more than a thousand people on the ground in the province working to restore power.

Hospitals and care facilities are the initial priorities, she said.

“We then begin to move through, and where we can get the largest amount of customers on first, that’s where we work.”

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For experts tasked with preparing for the extreme weather, Dorian didn’t sneak up on the region.

“It did manifest itself largely as forecast,” Paul Mason, EMO’s executive director, said during a media briefing Sunday at the agency’s Dartmouth headquarters.

“We’re pleased with how the response has gone to this point. We’re really moving into the assessment and recovery phase.”

Mason said the effects of Saturday’s system, which included heavy rains and high winds, were felt across the province.

Nicholas Pierce records some video of the waves from his sunroof, while checking out the impact of hurricane Dorian, in Cow Bay, N.S., Saturday September 7, 2019. - Tim Krochak
Nicholas Pierce records some video of the waves from his sunroof, while checking out the impact of hurricane Dorian, in Cow Bay, N.S., Saturday September 7, 2019. - Tim Krochak

Dorian had hurricane-strength winds as it approached Nova Scotia.

Bob Robichaud, a meteorologist with the Canadian Hurricane Centre, said the storm made landfall just west of Halifax at about 6:15 p.m. Saturday “as a very strong post-tropical storm.”

Observed wind gusts were in the range of 120-150 km/h, Robichaud said. The highest rainfall amounts were between 100 and 200 millimetres.

A gust of 129 km/h was recorded at the Yarmouth Airport, while the J.A. Douglas McCurdy Sydney Airport saw wind gusts up to 104 km/h. 

Robichaud said the storm was in the northeastern part of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence by midday Sunday and was still packing a punch.

“We’re still seeing some strong winds in the eastern part of Nova Scotia right now, but those are in the process of diminishing.”

Rear Admiral Craig Baines, commander of Joint Task Force Atlantic, said a 300-person immediate-reaction force, primarily from CFB Gagetown in New Brunswick, moved out early Sunday after the worst of the storm had passed. Those personnel will be helping anywhere the province and the Halifax municipal government deem necessary.

“We have another 200 folks here in the region that will be available if required, and a further 200 in Gagetown if needed,” Baines said.

Several dozen crews were out working Saturday and Sunday on the province’s roads, said Mark Peachey, executive director of maintenance and operations with the Transportation Department.

“The department has over 400 pieces of equipment at its disposal across the province to help in these efforts,” said Peachey.

“We only currently have a handful of roads that are completely washed out,” mostly on the South Shore, he said. Other roads were closed, but that was mostly because of downed trees and power lines.

There are no fatalities attributed to Dorian.

“That is the best news of the day,” said Erica Fleck, Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency’s assistant chief of community risk reduction and logistics.

Four residential structures were evacuated because of roof damage, Fleck said.

Bob Robichaud, meteorologist with the Canadian Hurricane Centre, speaks about the effects of Dorian at a briefing Sunday in Dartmouth. Paul Mason, executive director of the Nova Scotia Emergency Management Office, looks on. - Tim Arsenault
Bob Robichaud, meteorologist with the Canadian Hurricane Centre, speaks about the effects of Dorian at a briefing Sunday in Dartmouth. Paul Mason, executive director of the Nova Scotia Emergency Management Office, looks on. - Tim Arsenault

Ancel Langille, senior manager of emergency management programs with the Atlantic region of the Canadian Red Cross, said volunteers staffed three shelters at the Dartmouth East Community Centre, Canada Games Centre in Halifax and St. Margarets Centre in Upper Tantallon, helping residents who evacuated due to damage to their homes or because of the possibility of storm impacts.

A comfort centre was opened in Moser River by Halifax Regional Municipality’s joint emergency management volunteers Sunday.

Cape Breton Regional Municipality opened five comfort centres — at the Grand Lake Road, New Waterford, Reserve Mines and Big Pond fire stations and the North Sydney Firemen’s Club — Sunday for residents without power. The municipality said the centres had heat, hot drinks and charging stations.

On Sunday, many in HRM left their homes to seek out the damage done by Dorian. 

“It’s like a disaster zone,” said Hillary Harris, who lives on Preston Street in Halifax. 

“There’s five houses that have had the power kind of mass-ripped right off of the houses. ... The sidewalk is also ripped out from outside of our house where the tree has tipped over.”

Harris watched the tree wobble “like a wiggly tooth” for about an hour, before it lifted the sidewalk from the ground at about 5 p.m. Saturday.

“It started to go and then kind of got caught in the electrical cables like a sling, which is a good thing because it then lowered down more slowly onto the house across the street,” she said. 

At about 9 p.m., Harris said the lifted sidewalk was turned into a mini skate ramp.

“There was three guys filming themselves on skateboards,” she said. “They were doing tricks coming down the paving slabs, and the trick was to basically come down and stop short of the electrical cables that are coming out of our driveway.”

 Cavendish National Park on P.E.I. was extensively damaged by hurricane Dorian. It's been closed for the season.  - Parks Canada
Cavendish National Park on P.E.I. was extensively damaged by hurricane Dorian. It's been closed for the season. - Parks Canada

Fleck said the biggest concern Sunday was “public safety messaging.”

“All the people that are lined up right now on the roads waiting for coffee in different spots, they are actually impeding our crews from getting out there,” Fleck said. 

“I can’t stress enough that people need to stay off the roads today. Let us get out there and do our jobs.

“Three hundred cars at a drive-thru right now in different locations is really stopping our progress.”

Halifax Transit resumed its normal schedule Monday morning including Access-a-bus and ferry operations. The service had been shut down since Saturday at noon. 

Emergency officials blocked off a section in downtown Halifax after a crane at a residential development under construction near the corner of South Park Street and Spring Garden Road collapsed onto the building during high winds Saturday. 

Jake Poulton, who lives nearby, heard crunching noises but thought it was another tree snapping.

“I looked out my window and the crane toppled over onto the building and the end hit the street,” Poulton said. 

Dan Kinsella, chief of Halifax Regional Police, said the province’s Labour Department is investigating the incident. 

Kinsella urged the curious to stay clear of the hazardous area, which had become a popular storm attraction Sunday.

Provincial parks in Nova Scotia will be closed until at least Wednesday, when an update will be provided. Kejimkujik Natinoal Park, including the seaside adjunct, is also shuttered until at least Wednesdady.  Cape Breton Highlands Natiional Park reopened Sunday with the exception of Broad Cove and Ingonish Beach campgrounds. 

Cavendish Campground in P.E.I. National Park, which was extensively damaged with many tree falls in the storm, has been closed for the season, Parks Canada said Monday morning. 

Prince Edward Island received more than 100 millimetres of rain near the province’s south shore, according to Environment Canada, with windspeeds up to 122 km/h registered in North Cape. 

Roughly 60,000 Maritime Electric customers across P.E.I. lost power, a spokeswoman said. About 20,000 were still in the dark early Monday morning, the company tweeted

Dorian also swept through western Newfoundland, with strong winds reported around 1 p.m. Sunday. Power outages were noted across the province as the storm system moved its way northward along the coast, weakening as it progressed.

With files from Ryan Taplin, The Chronicle Herald, and Gary Kean, The Western Star

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