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Inverness County residents want signage to warn drivers
A Cape Breton community is calling for safety measures to protect drivers from a weather phenomenon known as les suêtes.
On Wednesday morning, an empty cargo trailer left the road in St. Joseph du Moine after encountering extremely high winds along the Cabot Trail.
This type of wind event brings gusts in the range of 70 to 200 kilometres per hour.
Inverness County councillor Laurie Cranton said residents are asking for signage to warn drivers about the dangers of les suêtes in areas near the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
Cranton said the driver of Wednesday’s overturned tractor-trailer was heading to the fishing village of Chéticamp to pick up a load of lobster or snow crab.
“This is happening more often, according to the residents, then it used to,” said Cranton.
“You can’t do much about the wind, but what they’re concerned about is the tourist season and all the big trucks coming in empty to load their seafood.”
Cpl. Jennifer Clarke of the Nova Scotia RCMP said the Wednesday’s incident was reported to their Chéticamp detachment around 7:30 a.m.
Clarke said the truck was damaged in the rollover, but fortunately the driver escaped injury.
Officials with the Department of Transportation waited Wednesday for winds to die down before having the vehicle towed away.
“He walked away from it, but one of these times somebody’s not going to walk away from it,” said Cranton.
“It could be quite often that drivers don’t even know what a les suêtes wind is, and all of a sudden you drive into it fast.”
Inverness County council will now meet with Department of Transportation supervisors on Thursday morning discuss signage in the St. Joseph du Moine, Grand Étang and Chéticamp areas, along with possible road closures to high-sided vehicles when les suêtes are occurring.
A similar action is taken when dangerously high winds are reported at the Canso Causeway — the only road link between Cape Breton and mainland Nova Scotia.
Cranton said the driver in Wednesday’s accident was likely unfamiliar with the range of wind speeds occurring on the western side of the island.
Concerns are also being raised over possible damage to the hundreds of RVs that visited the nearby national park over its busy tourism season.
Cranton believes high-sided vehicle rollovers reported in the municipality each year rivals the number reported at the causeway.
An example of the destruction of les suêtes winds in the area is the destruction of a 50-metre high wind turbine in nearby Grand Étang in 2017.
The main tower of the turbine, owned and operated by Nova Scotia Power, snapped in two after being pounded by the strong southeast winds.
Cranton said the Wednesday’s accident occurred within a kilometre of where the turbine collapsed.