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By Greg Bennett
A major winter storm knocked out power, felled trees and paralyzed much of Shelburne County with hurricane-strength winds and heavy snow causing blizzard conditions on Saturday morning.
Gusts of 164 km/hr were reported in Woods Harbour, a wind speed equivalent to a category two hurricane.
The intense storm brought with it an unusually high storm surge of 1.6 metres that combined with a high tide and flooded low-lying areas across the county, including along Dock Street in Shelburne and areas in Lockeport.
Not since the fabled Groundhog Day Gale had the water risen so high, causing some fishing boats to nearly sit on flooded wharfs and inundating shorelines and some roads. Several derelict vessels on Cape Sable Island broke their lines and came ashore.
While damage from the surge to the area’s historic buildings is still being assessed the most spectacular damage from the storm may be to the former Atlantic Superstore entrance in Barrington Passage where many of the large outdoor windows came crashing down during the winds that sometimes exceeded 120 kilometres an hour.
Shelburne Emergency Measures Coordinator Don Bower says it appears the strong winds opened a gap in the building that pressurized the store, causing the windows to explode outwards.
The winds were also a huge problem for Nova Scotia Power and their customers as thousands were without power on Saturday. Crews were busy reconnecting people throughout the day. Most businesses in Shelburne were closed for the day.
Left without power, several people took advantage of comfort centres set up in several areas. The Island & Barrington Passage fire hall in Centreville was open to the public and offered heat, power and food, as was the Lockeport Fire Hall and the Port Clyde Fire Hall.
Some residents were still waiting for their power to come back on Sunday morning, more than 24 hours after losing it.
The winds took their toll on buildings throughout the county, particularly on Cape Sable Island where there were reports of siding being peeled off buildings. Gusts reaching 132 km/h were reported at the Baccaro weather station. One derelict mobile home in Clarks Harbour was nearly destroyed by the wind and pushed aside by heavy equipment.
“Once the wind gets in, it can peel vinyl siding off like spaghetti,” said Bower.
In Barrington Passage, there were also reports of major roof damage occurring to the Lions Hall.
A lobster boat sank at the Shag Harbour wharf during the blizzard.
In Lockeport, the local electrical substation was surrounded by floodwaters during the surge and failed shortly after, plunging the town into darkness for a extended period.
Mayor Darian Huskilson noted that the beach wall held up well despite the extreme weather and the storm surge.
“Nothing that we aren’t accustomed to,” he said.
The winds were piling up large drifts in some many areas and people were busy shoveling and in some cases shoveling again as the snow drifted back in.
Town of Shelburne and Department of highway crews were also busy throughout the weekend keeping streets and highways open.