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Premier Stephen McNeil visits CBRM to survey storm damage


SYDNEY — The water may be gone, but many Cape Bretoners were just beginning to come to terms with the devastation it left behind, Wednesday.

Two days after a fall storm delivered up to 225 mm of rain on parts of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, residents were still cleaning up and assessing their homes, while Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil got a sense of the scope of the damage during a tour of some of the hardest hit areas in Sydney, Glace Bay, and Eskasoni.

In Sydney, along Cabot Street, McNeil spoke briefly with some residents upset about the damage to their own homes and eager for answers about what help will be there for them from government.

For more on the storm and the damage it cause, see our editorial on page A8.

Gordie Rhymes, a resident of St. Peters Road, was among them and said his message to the premier was simple.

“Don’t forget about us. We’re hurting,” he said. “We’re just looking to be helped out. Our homes are a write-off.”

Rhymes said he stayed in his home throughout the storm and managed to contain the flooding water to his basement. Even so, the damage is extensive and many of his neighbours are even worse off. He said he and others are fatigued and stressed.

“We’re in a bind here,” he said. “Insurance companies have basically offered us $10,000 or nothing and our houses are written off. We have people with water up to the ceiling of their first floor.”

McNeil sympathized with the plight of area residents.

“I can’t imagine the position you’re in, I can’t imagine what I’d feel like if my home was in this situation,” he said. “Part of why I came here was to see first-hand.”

Earlier in the day during a media briefing, McNeil said it was “hard to believe” the extent of the damage to homes, roads, and other infrastructure.

McNeil said he had spoken with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about the situation and had also received offers of support from a number of premiers

“We want to reassure affected citizens that we will be here for them,” he said. “We as a provincial government, and I can pass on that the federal government as well, are prepared to be here to work with you and your community.”

Given the extent of the damage, McNeil said they have begun the process of triggering disaster relief funding that would involve all three levels of government, and could potentially deal with everything from public infrastructure to eligible private homes.

“Our issue is to make sure the process that involves individuals and communities is seamless and doesn’t get bogged down,” he said.

At Brookland Elementary in Sydney, school and board officials were assessing the damage caused by significant flooding in the lower level of the school, which is home to six classrooms for Grades 4 and 5 students, as well as the mechanical and electrical rooms.

Lorne Green, chair of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board, said it was devastating to see the extent of the damage to the school, which had previously had no flooding incidents.

“It’s hard to describe,” he said. “It’s much worse than I expected.”

Green said insurance adjusters will be brought in and board officials will take inventory in the days ahead, but it will take months to clean and repair the damage and determine a final price tag.

“Definitely we’re into tens, hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he said. “The (lower level) is going be months to bounce back; as far as the rest of the school, whether we can occupy it or not, will have to be determined.”

Until Brookland can be reopened, its P-3 students will be temporarily relocated to Harbourside Elementary, while Grade 4-5 students will move to Shipyard Elementary. All classrooms will be moved together with their teacher. Green said most students will now have to be bused to school and they are working to figure out the logistics of that now. The goal is to have Brookland students back in class at their temporary schools by some point next week.

Area resident Susan MacDonald said her son, a Grade 3 student at Brookland, is upset by the damage the storm caused to his community and school.

“He’s worried about the school, he’s worried about everything in the school, he’s worried about his friends who live in the area and he’s very upset about going (to school) somewhere else,” she said. “It’s hard for them to comprehend something of this magnitude.”

Schools across the Cape Breton-Victoria board remained closed Wednesday but classes are set to resume today. Some bus routes are impacted by full and partial road closures that remain in effect across the CBRM.

As of 7 p.m. Wednesday, approximately 4,800 Cape Bretoners were still without power, most in the Sydney area.

 

ljgrant@cbpost.com

 

FACTS BOX:

With classes set to resume Thursday, the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board has advised that:

• Buses will not be travelling on Brickyard Road, Salmon River Road, Hornes Road (between the bridge and Marconi Trail), Broughton Road, and Marconi Towers Road

• Buses will be travelling 15 minutes early for students living on Beechmont Road.

• Buses will be travelling 15 minutes later for students living on Gillis Lake Road.

• Parents can also expect transportation delays in urban and other county areas due to localized road closures.

 

Two days after a fall storm delivered up to 225 mm of rain on parts of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, residents were still cleaning up and assessing their homes, while Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil got a sense of the scope of the damage during a tour of some of the hardest hit areas in Sydney, Glace Bay, and Eskasoni.

In Sydney, along Cabot Street, McNeil spoke briefly with some residents upset about the damage to their own homes and eager for answers about what help will be there for them from government.

For more on the storm and the damage it cause, see our editorial on page A8.

Gordie Rhymes, a resident of St. Peters Road, was among them and said his message to the premier was simple.

“Don’t forget about us. We’re hurting,” he said. “We’re just looking to be helped out. Our homes are a write-off.”

Rhymes said he stayed in his home throughout the storm and managed to contain the flooding water to his basement. Even so, the damage is extensive and many of his neighbours are even worse off. He said he and others are fatigued and stressed.

“We’re in a bind here,” he said. “Insurance companies have basically offered us $10,000 or nothing and our houses are written off. We have people with water up to the ceiling of their first floor.”

McNeil sympathized with the plight of area residents.

“I can’t imagine the position you’re in, I can’t imagine what I’d feel like if my home was in this situation,” he said. “Part of why I came here was to see first-hand.”

Earlier in the day during a media briefing, McNeil said it was “hard to believe” the extent of the damage to homes, roads, and other infrastructure.

McNeil said he had spoken with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about the situation and had also received offers of support from a number of premiers

“We want to reassure affected citizens that we will be here for them,” he said. “We as a provincial government, and I can pass on that the federal government as well, are prepared to be here to work with you and your community.”

Given the extent of the damage, McNeil said they have begun the process of triggering disaster relief funding that would involve all three levels of government, and could potentially deal with everything from public infrastructure to eligible private homes.

“Our issue is to make sure the process that involves individuals and communities is seamless and doesn’t get bogged down,” he said.

At Brookland Elementary in Sydney, school and board officials were assessing the damage caused by significant flooding in the lower level of the school, which is home to six classrooms for Grades 4 and 5 students, as well as the mechanical and electrical rooms.

Lorne Green, chair of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board, said it was devastating to see the extent of the damage to the school, which had previously had no flooding incidents.

“It’s hard to describe,” he said. “It’s much worse than I expected.”

Green said insurance adjusters will be brought in and board officials will take inventory in the days ahead, but it will take months to clean and repair the damage and determine a final price tag.

“Definitely we’re into tens, hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he said. “The (lower level) is going be months to bounce back; as far as the rest of the school, whether we can occupy it or not, will have to be determined.”

Until Brookland can be reopened, its P-3 students will be temporarily relocated to Harbourside Elementary, while Grade 4-5 students will move to Shipyard Elementary. All classrooms will be moved together with their teacher. Green said most students will now have to be bused to school and they are working to figure out the logistics of that now. The goal is to have Brookland students back in class at their temporary schools by some point next week.

Area resident Susan MacDonald said her son, a Grade 3 student at Brookland, is upset by the damage the storm caused to his community and school.

“He’s worried about the school, he’s worried about everything in the school, he’s worried about his friends who live in the area and he’s very upset about going (to school) somewhere else,” she said. “It’s hard for them to comprehend something of this magnitude.”

Schools across the Cape Breton-Victoria board remained closed Wednesday but classes are set to resume today. Some bus routes are impacted by full and partial road closures that remain in effect across the CBRM.

As of 7 p.m. Wednesday, approximately 4,800 Cape Bretoners were still without power, most in the Sydney area.

 

ljgrant@cbpost.com

 

FACTS BOX:

With classes set to resume Thursday, the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board has advised that:

• Buses will not be travelling on Brickyard Road, Salmon River Road, Hornes Road (between the bridge and Marconi Trail), Broughton Road, and Marconi Towers Road

• Buses will be travelling 15 minutes early for students living on Beechmont Road.

• Buses will be travelling 15 minutes later for students living on Gillis Lake Road.

• Parents can also expect transportation delays in urban and other county areas due to localized road closures.

 

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