NEWPORT CORNER, N.S. — Residents living in the Brook Street trailer park have spent the last couple of months picking up their lives after major flooding caused much damage and destruction to the Newport Corner location.
And while things have basically gone back to normal, residents are still a bit on edge.
The trailer park experienced significant flooding Aug. 7, when a storm surge damaged the Thumb Hill Creek Bridge.
“I was in shock because it looked like something you’d see on TV in another country — not here in Nova Scotia,” said Beverly Deschenes, who owns the trailer park.
Deschenes was at home in Ellershouse dealing with flooding in her own basement when she learned what was happening at the Brook Street trailer park, which she and her husband purchased a few months earlier.
“It was shocking. I really don’t know how to explain it. The fire people were there, the EMO people were there; people were screaming, people were trying to find their dogs. It was just chaos — total chaos for a little while,” said Deschenes.
“When I walked down the back and seen the devastation, I was just shocked. I cried. I just couldn’t believe it was happening. I felt so bad for the people,” she added.
Residents reported seeing large, 20 to 30 feet long, wooden beams floating downstream, knocking down trees and devastating the landscape as they travelled.
One resident, who evacuated the park via car, said he had to push wooden beams and firewood out of the way as he was driving. He also saw a shed that was taken from somewhere upstream and destroyed when it reached the trailer park.
Donna Upshaw, who lives in one of the upper level trailers, was one of the people who tried to help that day.
“It was absolutely insane,” Upshaw recalled.
“I’ve lived here 33 years. The river has gone up a little bit when we’ve had heavy rain but nothing ever like that. The whole road down there was underwater. There was a swirling current and everything.”
Upshaw said she tried to calm people down as they made their way up the hill, offering them hugs and phones so that they could call loved ones.
“There was not much that I could do other than just talk to people, (give) hugs,” she said.
The trailer park consists of 17 trailers, nine of which had to be evacuated. One trailer was condemned.
In an order to comply posted at the home by order of the Municipality of West Hants, it was noted that an inspection was done about 3:30 p.m. Aug. 8 “due to flood waters and debris from storm surge” on Aug. 7. Prior to reoccupying the home, three items were listed to be repaired. The foundation and blocking needed to be addressed (with a structural engineer report), as well as the ground surface (via a geotechnical engineer report), and the electrical system needed repairs (which required Nova Scotia Power certification).
Rescuing those in need
Kimberly McCartney, Deschenes’ daughter and the park manager, helped with the evacuation of the park and saved a few animals that were trapped inside the trailers. Deschenes calls her daughter a hero, while McCartney maintains helping the largely senior population in the park was just the proper thing to do.
“Honestly, a lot of the people that live here are older folks, so I couldn’t picture them running down the hill to climb through people’s windows. I just couldn’t let them do that,” said McCartney.
Aside from helping retrieve peoples’ pets, she helped grab necessary medications as they weren’t sure how long the evacuation might last, and an extra oxygen tank for the one of the residents. For the resident whose trailer wound up being condemned, she helped retrieve some personal items.
“It was pretty crazy,” McCartney said of the scene. “It was a very quick 10 minutes or so trying to get everyone out that we could.”
Paul Maynard, the acting co-ordinator for West Hants’ Regional Emergency Measures Organization, recalls the day well.
He was at home in Hantsport when he started hearing calls for Brooklyn firefighters to help with various floods. Then a representative with the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure called, indicating the area was being hit with ‘significant flooding.’
“We had some weather warnings out but nothing that indicated there would be major flooding or major rain. It was basically a thunderstorm watch,” said Maynard.
“Since then, I’ve talked to Environment Canada and they told me they didn’t have any weather stations in the area and that it was a very narrow band of heavy torrential rain that came through the area,” said Maynard.
“When I got there... everybody I talked to that were from that area said they’ve never seen that much water in that brook.”
Marla MacInnis, the media relations advisor with the provincial Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, said in an e-mail that within a two-hour period, about 135 millimetres of rain fell, which caused flooding that damaged the Thumb Hill Creek Bridge and the surrounding area.
“The Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal has done about $50,000 worth of repairs to the bridge, including injecting foam under the abutments as well as re-established the rock on the slope and banks around the bridge,” MacInnis said of the government’s response to rectifying the bridge.
The lion’s share of the clean-up work at the trailer park property was done by its residents. With trees strewn here and there, it was quite an undertaking, Deschenes said.
Deschenes said as a result of the flooding, the brook bed has shifted closer to the trailer park. She says the waterway has seemingly permanently shifted, and that’s a cause for concern.
With hurricane season in full swing, residents are worried they may experience something similar in the future.
“Now the river has changed. It’s totally going a different route. So yes, I’m very worried about that,” said Deschenes, pointing to the water.
“We’ve lost probably 40 feet of land there, so now we can’t rent that. We’ve lost income.”
She says she’d like to see the brook fixed, sooner rather than later.
Plan ahead for disaster
Maynard said the best thing homeowners and renters can do is be prepared for any kind of disaster.
He suggests having a 72-hour kit and an evacuation plan in place should there be a wildfire, flooding or other disaster that would require residents to leave in a hurry.
“We all see it. The storms are more intense. The rain we’re getting comes not just steady over a couple of days. It seems to be coming in a few hours. It’s torrential rain; there’s high winds,” said Maynard.
“The weather is changing and I would stress that people have to plan for that. They have to re-evaluate their own properties. They have to look at these 72-hour kits as much as people don’t like to think about having to do that. You really have to think: what would I do if I had to evacuate.”
Maynard said in the coming months, once a new REMO co-ordinator is hired, they will be getting people thinking about how to stay safe during challenging weather conditions.
“We’re going to pick some streets and communities and go around and say, if we had to evacuate you right now, what kind of things would you be thinking about — where would you go, what would you take?” said Maynard.
The long-time volunteer firefighter, who has been involved with emergency planning for years, says people living near bodies of water especially need to have a plan in place.
In case of an emergency
Here’s what a basic emergency kit should consist of:
• Water — two litres of water per person per day (include small bottles so that they’re easy to carry)
• Food — include items that won't spoil, such as canned food, energy bars and dried foods (and replace this once a year)
• Manual can opener
• Wind-up or battery-powered flashlight — don’t forget extra batteries
• Wind-up or battery-powered radio — don’t forget extra batteries
• First aid kit
• Extra keys — for your car and house
• Cash, travellers' cheques and change
• Important family documents — be sure to have identification, insurance and bank records
• Emergency plan — include a copy in your kit as well as contact information
Kits can be made at home or purchased. They can contain additional items, including such things as a spare change of clothing, duct tape, and medications.
~ Source: Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness