Taking stock after the storm

Juris
Juris Graney
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Leaning on his recently built bridge, Adrian Myers is quite rightly baffled.

He's confused not only to how his home of 17 years survived last Thursday night's violent wind storm but also what to do with the bridge considering it is no longer attached to his house instead it lays upside down about 15 metres away.

Leaning on his recently built bridge, Adrian Myers is quite rightly baffled.

He's confused not only to how his home of 17 years survived last Thursday night's violent wind storm but also what to do with the bridge considering it is no longer attached to his house instead it lays upside down about 15 metres away.

"It still looks intact," he says running his hand across the wood, "she'll go back on but not sure just how yet."

Like almost everyone living on the Northern Peninsula and Southern Labrador, Mr. Myers has a tale from the storm that is being described as one of the worst to hit the coast in more than two decades.

"Yes sir, I thought she was gone," he said last Monday as he started the clean up.

"One of the windows popped out and if it wasn't for some of the b'ys driving past, well I'd say the roof would have gone completely."

The good Samaritans, who did not want to be named, saw the damage to Mr. Myers home and rushed to board up the remaining windows to prevent even more damage.

"I've never seen anything like it," Mr. Myers continued.

"She was coming right in, the water was up over the wharf there, highest surge I've seen."

That surge was felt by the Caines brothers who fish out of Bartlett's Harbour.

Two of their main fishing vessels now lay grounded, the 200-ton steel hull 85-foot Mario G ripped two grumps clear off the wharf as it smashed up against the rocks while the Eastern Princess lays grounded several hundred metres away.

The Mario G lays bow pointing up the road out of town precariously placed next to the town's general store while the Eastern Princess is on her side, she too with the moorings from the wharf still attached.

Three of their speedboats were also tossed ashore at the end of town blocking the road to the graveyard.

"Not much you can do about it now," owner Paul Caines said.

"We just have to get on and see what we can do, whether we can re-float them or salvage them."

Insurance assessors were expected to inspect both vessels last Tuesday after which a decision would be made on the future of the vessels.

The Caines brothers were lucky not to have lost two more vessels.

"We took two more down to Port Saunders that morning," Mr. Caines said.

Along the coast shell shocked residents are still wondering how no one was injured or killed in the storm.

Not one community was unaffected by the storm with debris from homes and former fishing structures scattered far and wide.

Tales of sheds cartwheeling across Route 430 in front of horrified drivers, speedboats being tossed about communities landing in people's yards and debris smashing through windows were common right across the region.

In Raleigh for instance some locals are comparing the shifting of a former souvenir store with the movie The Wizard of Oz.

Had it not been for a ditch more than 50 feet from where the building had originally stood, the structure, now owned by a couple from Kansas, would have crashed into Ha Ha Bay.

Winds topping 150km/h not only damaged property but brought down trees over power lines and whipped salt water spray onto high energy insulators that were designed to prevent electricity from coursing to the ground.

Communities such as Englee on the eastern shore and St. Lunaire-Griquet on the west were left without power for almost four days and downed trees knocked out the Bell Aliant fibre optic cable causing a communications blackout until Friday afternoon.

NL Hydro's Merissa Wiseman said as many as 8000 customers were affected by power outages on the Baie Verte and Northern peninsulas but as opposed to the storm that ripped across the Northern Peninsula in late October, last Thursday's howler did far less damage.

"We found that storm was worst on infrastructure in terms of freezing rain damaging cross arms and poles, there was very little damage caused this time around," she said.

"The main issues we faced was trees and salt contamination of insulators."

Ms. Wiseman said crew safety was a huge concern in the peak of the storm.

"Safety is paramount and the supervisor wouldn't send the vehicles out on Thursday night because there were fears that they could flip over," she said.

Even on Friday morning as the winds continued to bear down on the peninsula crews were restricted in what they could do.

"Obviously with such high winds they couldn't work on the lines but they went around and removed fallen trees," she said.

Ms. Wiseman said in times of emergency situations NL Hydro usually shares resources but because the storm slammed into the whole of the province, mobilizing other crews to attend the area was impossible until Saturday at which point the 20 to 25 NL Hydro crew members on the Northern Peninsula were joined by another dozen from central Newfoundland.

Salt contamination, which causes flashing and immediately trips the line affected numerous sites between Cow Head and Cook's Harbour with the hardest hit area between Daniel's Harbour and Plum Point.

"The crews on the ground had rarely seen salt contamination so far inland as they did after that storm," she said.

In extreme circumstances crew members can scale affected sites and manually wipe down insulators however rain on Saturday evening cleaned the infrastructure, Ms. Wiseman said.

A helicopter joined the emergency operation on Sunday but flight crews found very little in the way of damage to lines.

NL Hydro initiated a plan to rotate power between communities in two hour intervals however power was restored to the entire region late Sunday afternoon.

A diesel back-up generator allowed St. Anthony to retain power for most of the four days but it lacked the ability to carry the load of surrounding communities such as Roddickton-Bide Arm or St. Lunaire-Griquet.

Ms. Wiseman said there were no immediate plans to upgrade the system however the second severe storm in two months may prompt a rethink from NL Hydro.

"This was a really unusual situation," she said.

"We are always looking at our options ... I'm sure we will have a good look at a back-up system."

Ms. Wiseman said while NL Hydro had a vegetation management program in place because of the location of power lines through densely forested areas and remote regions of the Northern Peninsula, that events like this were unavoidable.

Bell Aliant spokesman Mark Duggan said they initiated their own internal emergency response as soon as the fibre optic cable was severed at 9.30pm on Thursday night about 58km north of Deer Lake.

Mr. Duggan said because of the number of power outages their facilities dotted along the coast, which operate on commercial power, were running on back-up battery power but the break in the cable was their primary concern.

"There were a number of trees that came down at the site of the fibre break so we had to clear the area first before we could get to the break," he said.

Their back up radio network of relay towers was also affected by the high winds meaning internet and cell phone service were all affected.

The fibre was finally reconnected and service north of Daniel's Harbour were fully restored by 11pm on Friday.

The Pen contacted the three major insurance companies in the region, Anthony Insurance, Steers and Munn Insurance to see just how many property assessments they had made since the storm but could not get a response.

 

Organizations: Northern Peninsula and Southern Labrador, Bell Aliant, Anthony Insurance Steers and Munn Insurance

Geographic location: Northern Peninsula, Port Saunders, Raleigh Kansas Ha Ha Bay Baie Verte Newfoundland Cow Head Plum Point St. Anthony Deer Lake

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