Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Fierce pre-Christmas flood soaks St. Mary’s

Day-long event could become more common

  • January 3 2024
  • By Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter    

ST. MARY’S — Heavy rain, fierce winds and widespread flooding threatened to dampen Christmas for area residents, as the St. Mary’s River broke its banks, washed over roads and poured into basements in communities from Sherbrooke to Glenelg on Dec. 21.

Environment Canada, which had issued winter storm warnings for much of the province, reported that the weather system dumped 100 to 200 millimetres of rain on the eastern mainland and Cape Breton. Parts of the municipalities of District of St. Mary’s and Guysborough also experienced freezing rain, blowing snow and power outages.

“My wife went out into the lake to recover the life jackets that had floated away from inside our boathouse, which is several feet away from the lake shore and was [suddenly] under water,” Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s deputy warden and Lochiel Lake resident James Fuller told The Journal. “The water level was a good foot or two higher in the morning than it was the night before.”

The speed of the flooding also struck Scott Beaver, president of the St. Mary’s River Association, who lives on Waternish Road. “I couldn’t get to work; I was stranded. The water was up to the door.”

At the peak of the storm – according to Environment Canada’s hydrometric station at Stillwater – the St. Mary’s River was discharging nearly 700 cubic metres of water per second, pushing its base level from 4.8 to 6.7 metres in less than 24 hours.

“And then,” said Beaver, “it went right back down; it was a day event.” Added Fuller in an email to The Journal on Dec. 27: “Water receding.”

Meanwhile, St. Mary’s Municipality – which hasn’t reported major storm-related damage or incidents on its website – is urging residents to “join the creation of the Eastern Shore Flood Line and Hazard Map.” Residents are invited to post stories and photos of flooding incidents.

Said Beaver: “It was certainly as bad as the storm we had in the summer. I think we can clearly that this [type of] event could be our new normal because of climate change.”

On July 22, 2023, Nova Scotia’s Emergency Management Office declared a state of emergency after a deep tropical depression dumped as much as 250 millimetres of rain in 24 hours over broad swathes of the province.