GASPE, Que. – The sun finally poked through the clouds Thursday over the town of Gaspe, Que., after roads were washed out and 500 homes were flooded in what a local official calls a “catastrophic and historic” storm.
A total of 248 mm of rain fell in the first three days of the week in the town 900 km northeast of Montreal, prompting provincial officials to declare a state of emergency.
The floods were the result of a bizarre weather pattern that brought above zero temperatures to eastern Quebec, the Maritimes and even the Arctic.
Some longtime area residents said water levels were at their highest level since the Second World War.
“To listen to older folks, they haven’t seen this since 1945,” one flooded-out resident told QMI Agency.
Provincial cabinet ministers and a beefed-up provincial police contingent headed to the rain-soaked region to assess the damage caused by three days of intense rain.
Francois Roussy, mayor of the town of Gaspe, told QMI Agency that he fears the worst is not over.
“(There could be) a number of landslides,” he said. “It would complicate a situation that’s already difficult.”
Towns along the Gaspe coast were hit by storm surges whipped up by high winds, and some bridges and roads were washed away. Area mayors have requested more than $30 million to help rebuild municipal infrastructure that was not covered by insurance.
The Red Cross is also in the region to offer aid to people who were chased from their homes by floodwaters. About 300 people are staying in shelters or with family in the town of Gaspe alone.
The true scope of the damage might not be known until floodwaters recede, and the mayor says cold weather could bring more problems once the water freezes over.
Meanwhile, power is being restored in Nova Scotia and water levels are going down in New Brunswick.
About 3,998 homes in Nova Scotia were without power Thursday morning, down from 15,000 Wednesday and 80,000 Monday.
Nova Scotia Power aims to have power restored to everyone by Thursday afternoon.
A number of bridges and roads were closed in Nova Scotia Wednesday night, and officials were working to repair them Thursday.
Dingwall in northern Cape Breton was completely cut off after torrential rains washed out the road leading into town.
The community of 600 people is now accessible by all-terrain or four-wheel drive vehicles.
Water levels are going down in New Brunswick, where heavy rains and rising rivers flooded homes and highways, tore up trees and washed out roads.
About 70 people have been displaced from their homes.
“Emergency measures have transitioned into the recovery phase,” said Andrew Holland, spokesman for the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization.
“The name of the game is people need to be safe and be patient.”
More than 100 roads remained closed in the province Thursday, and Holland said it would be “some time” before the water receded enough to assess damage and begin repairs.
“Outside the Fredericton area, there’s still a considerable amount of water,” he said, adding Charlotte County is in particularly bad shape after being hit with over 177 mm of rain.
The provincial government is beginning recovery programs for people whose property was damaged by the storm.
As well, Marine Atlantic has resumed ferry service between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, meaning stranded travellers and stalled Canada Post deliveries will make it to their destinations in time for the holidays.