Dorian brought strong winds and heavy rain and left its mark in southwestern Nova Scotia on Saturday, Sept. 7, downing trees and power lines, and leaving thousands without power while causing other damage.
The storm was classified a tropical storm for southwestern Nova Scotia (although it was still being classified a hurricane as it made its way to other central parts of the province) but even so had high sustained winds at times that fell in the 70 to 90 km/h range, with strong wind gusts. A gust of 129 km/h was recorded around 4:30 p.m. at the Yarmouth Airport, according to Environment Canada’s Yarmouth forecast website page, with another gust over the course of that hour hitting 110 km/h it listed.
At Baccaro’s weather station in the early part of the afternoon sustained winds were recorded in the 80s and low 90s, with gusts of 101 to 119 km/h on the Environment Canada hourly weather conditions page.
Dorian made landfall near Sambro Creek, roughly 25 kilometres from Halifax, with maximum wind gusts of 155 km/h around 6:15 p.m., according to the National Hurricane Centre. By Saturday evening hurricane Dorian had been declared a post-tropical storm.
Forest Street in Yarmouth – beloved for its canopy of trees that have lined the street – took a hard hit from Dorian, with many of the old trees uprooted, damaging sidewalks, resting on powerlines and forcing traffic to be rerouted.
Motorists were being asked to stay off of the roads on Saturday due to downed trees, downed powerlines and flying debris. In the town of Yarmouth, traffic lights were not operating and there weren’t enough temporary stop signs to go around so people were being reminded on social media to treat the stops as four-way intersections.
Many businesses closed early and some didn’t open at all.
In southwestern Nova Scotia, people started losing power mid-morning, although for others, they only lost power mid-to-late afternoon. There were reports of power coming back on in some areas Saturday evening, but most of those without power had to wait for restoration as the weather conditions had made it unsafe for Nova Scotia Power crews to be out making repairs on Saturday.
As of 10:10 p.m. across the province, the Nova Scotia Power outage map said there 375,025 customers affected by the outages. In this region, at that time, the numbers of affected customers Saturday evening at that time included Clare: 3,881; Barrington: 3,948; Digby: 8,706; Shelburne 5,693 and Yarmouth 11,256.
By 1 a.m. the number of affected customers in the province, according to the outage map, had grown to 401,762.
Nova Scotia Power said early on Saturday that it would be taking crews off of the roads at noon because winds were too high, which put worker safety at risk. When the winds from Hurricane Dorian began to gust at 90 km/h and higher, Nova Scotia Power issued a safety stand down to all crews.
“Crews continue to stand down for safety, so outage causes have not been field-validated, however, photos and videos shot by customers show high winds felling trees and branches into lines,” Nova Scotia Power said in a media release issued shortly before 6 p.m.
“Given the extent of the damage sustained thus far, Nova Scotia Power is securing additional crews from utilities and contractors. Presently Nova Scotia Power has upwards of 1,000 personnel – including powerline technicians, forestry crews, planners, damage assessors, engineers, supervisors, communication staff, and customer care representatives, staged in communities across the province ready to respond, as soon as it is safe to do so,” read the media release. “Already, more than 600 power line technicians are set to help. Internal crews are being supported by contracted crews from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec.”
Nova Scotia Power said customers can report outages and receive estimated times of restoration (ETRs) via Nova Scotia Power’s outage map at nspower.ca or call by calling 1-877-428-6004. Initial ETRs have not been field validated and will be updated once teams have assessed damage. In most areas of the province, this would not be able to talk place until at least early Sunday morning.
Restoration of power in some areas could happen Sunday. In other areas it may not happen until Monday or later.
Once winds died down crews were back on the job.
As winds have lowered in Yarmouth, crews have begun patrolling the lines to assess damage. First up for restoration will be the Yarmouth Regional Hospital. #DorianNS #NSstorm pic.twitter.com/uzvpLNBTXX— Nova Scotia Power (@nspowerinc) September 8, 2019
The Tri-County Regional Centre for Excellence was cautioning the public that due to power outages it is possible that some schools could be affected. Updates will be provided.
Locally in the tri-counties on Saturday through social media, the public was being warned by municipal units of roads and streets that were impassable due to down trees or down power poles. There were structures that were also damaged, with people posting photos online of damage at Evelyn Richardson Memorial Elementary School in Shag Harbour and a building at a boat shop in Wedgeport, Yarmouth County.
Yarmouth Mountain Cemetery was another area said to have seen a large number of trees down. A large tree that came down by the Lakelawn Motel in Yarmouth caused traffic disruptions and some damage.
On Saturday evening around 11 p.m. the town of Shelburne issued this notice to the public on its Facebook page: “While we were able to clear some of the larger trees this evening there remains a considerable amount of debris on the roads and sidewalks, please exercise caution when moving through town. Please note, King Street west of Mowatt remains blocked by trees resting on power lines. These wires are under high tension and the area should be avoided. Post-storm clean-up will be conducted over the course of this week. We appreciate your continued patience as crews work to clean up after Hurricane Dorian.”
As of Saturday evening, the Yarmouth Fire Department had only been called out twice on Saturday. One call related to a large tree that fell onto a house and took down the entrance wires. Firefighters also responded to a chimney fire in Melbourne on Saturday evening. Part of a wall also had to be extinguished. Platoon Chief Lynn Seeley said the high winds didn’t hamper their efforts too much, as the wind speeds had dropped since the afternoon. He said due to early detection there was minimal damage as a result of the fire.
Seeley was asked if during the power outages there are precautions people should take. He said people need to exercise caution when looking at alternate cooking methods, like wood stoves.
“If you’re using portable appliances or propane stoves, make sure they are in a well-ventilated area like a garage,” he said. “And a lot of people are running generators. It’s important that those either stay outside or in your garage, but definitely not in your home. And when I say in the garage, with the door open because of carbon monoxide.”
The Town of Yarmouth was advising the public Saturday that its email servers were down. “If you have questions or issues and need to reach out, please email us at Dorian2019yarmouth@gmail.com. You can also contact us using the after hours line for questions/concerns within town at 1-833-460-8709.”
It was also providing updates on the situation and street closures on its Facebook page.
The Fundy Rose, of course, cancelled all sailings on Saturday between Digby and Saint John due to the weather. “Please continue to monitor our website for further updates or contact us at the following numbers: Digby @ 902-245-2116, Saint John @ 506-649-7777, or our call center at 1-877-762-7245,” Bay Ferries posted on the website.
Some municipal units were posting maps of available comfort centres on their Facebook pages for those impacted by power outages. The Municipality of Shelburne, for instance, posted a map of various locations, although informing the people that these centre may not necessarily be available right away. In some situations it may be up to 72 hours after a storm before a comfort centre is opened. “The intent of a comfort centre is to provide a warm, dry and safe environment during daylight hours,” read a notice.
On its Facebook page The Barrington and Town of Clark’s Harbour also posted information about comfort centres, given that a large portion of residents had lost power and the estimated date and time of restoration, according to Nova Scotia Power, is Monday, Sept. 9 at 11:00 pm.
“In an effort to assist residents, four comfort centres will be opened on Sunday, Sept. 8 from 8:00 am – 8:00 pm at the following locations,” read a Facebook post.
• Clark’s Harbour Legion – 12 Kenny Street, Clark’s Harbour
• Clyde Area Community Centre – 285 Port La Tour Road, Port Clyde
• Island and Barrington Passage Fire Hall – 1081, highway 330, Centreville
•Woods Harbour Community Centre – 6881 Highway 3, Woods Harbour
“These comfort centres can be used to charge devices, use washrooms and access water. A decision whether to open these comfort centres further will be made (Sunday) afternoon,” the posting read.
“As with any serious weather event, please use extreme caution if you need to travel and please check on your neighbours to see if they require any assistance. If you require any assistance from the Red Cross, they are available by calling 1-800-222-9597. For up-to-date power restoration information, to report an electrical hazard or damage to NS Power equipment, please contact 1-877-428-6004. For any road issues to report, the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal’s Operation Contact Centre can be reached 1-844-696-7737.”