Practically every tree in Colonel Smith’s yard in Inverness fell during Dorian’s assault, but apart from a baby barn, his home and surrounding houses were left relatively unscathed.
-by Anne Farries
Giant windstorm Dorian trampled through Inverness Saturday night, swinging a heavy cudgel, knocking off buildings and blowing out lights.
The category-two hurricane toppled uncountable trees which, as they tumbled, dragged down a record number of power lines. Much of the county fell into pitch dark for two nights, with some parts likely to remain so for several more.
“I don’t recall a storm like this one, and I’ve been around since quite a while,” Warden Betty Ann MacQuarrie said Monday. “It’s a storm that we won’t forget any time soon.” At one point, 80 percent of the province had no electricity, the most in Nova Scotia Power’s history.
In Inverness, massive trees punched the corners off at least five houses.
Heavy trunks and fallen branches blocked numerous roads in two-thirds of the county.
Gas pumps stopped. Phones died. Water reservoirs, lacking power for pumps, drained to empty.
But there was light in places. Firehalls with generators opened kitchens and charging stations, which became scenes of chatter and warmth.
“The Co-op (grocery store) helped us,” Joan MacIsaac said Sunday while serving soup and sandwiches at the Inverness village firehall.
“One of the (Co-op employees) with a key went in and the manager gave us permission to get what we wanted. It will be charged to us whenever the power comes back on,” she said.
“I was going around in the dark, saying ‘these look like carrots’,” said volunteer cook Lillian Smith.
How many bowls of soup, how many sandwiches?
“I haven’t got a clue,” MacIsaac said. “A lot.”
Sofia Pizzato charged her phone at the firehall. From Italy, she and a friend were touring in a camper van. When the storm hit, they parked in a car wash.
“It was the safest place, because there are trees everywhere here,” Pizzato said. “He was okay. Me, I was scared.”
“I couldn’t sleep, because between ten and two a.m. it was like a really rough wind.”
“I could still hear the (van) moving. So, I can’t imagine outside how it would have been.”
Water taps ran dry in Whycocomagh and Mabou.
“That was six o’clock this morning (Monday in Whycocomagh),” Councillor MacLennan said. “They finally got that resurrected and the power on, I guess around 2:00, and the tanks are starting to fill up.”
“I guess at 6:30, 7:00 tonight they can have water.”
“The water (was) way down in Port Hood (...) and Inverness (village) was critical.”
That left firefighters uneasy, MacLennan said.
“If something happens, we have no water.”
Warden MacQuarrie echoed that, explaining that trying to pull water out of brooks and rivers is an inconvenient answer.
“Usually there’s at least one truck filled with water, ready to fight a fire,” she said. “But if they have to get more from the hydrants and there’s no water (...) it would be much more difficult.”
“We have two neighbouring communities, Mabou and Whycocomagh, that are both without municipal water.”
“We’re hoping that Nova Scotia Power will restore it soon,” she said.
MacLennan said backup generators failed at some senior homes.
“They told me there was two or three,” he said. “That’s Nova Scotia Housing. It’s up to them. They had no power, no emergency lights. That was kind of low. It should never have happened.”
“Some people without generators, I think they’re going to lose all their frozen food. That’s going to be a cost for everybody.”
The post-storm difficulties were concentrated in the south half of the county, including Port Hood, where a tree that fell Saturday night on Mitchell MacInnis’ car and house also blocked Main Street for most of the next day.
Sunday, a nearby gas station ran dry for four hours, said pump jockey Ryan Cameron.
“Lots of traffic,” he said. “Jerry cans for generators.”
Cell service “wasn’t completely out; it was just really spotty,” Cameron said. “We haven’t had (land-based) internet for a while. Bell was having trouble keeping their service up. They said the batteries they use to keep everything running ran out, so they (tried to) put generators everywhere.”
One bright spot was Waycobah, said Councillor MacLennan.
“Around Rod’s One Stop and Tim Horton’s, they never lost their power.”
“But Whycocomagh, Skye Glen, River Denys, Aberdeen — pretty well every other part had no power.”
“Driving around — I drove pretty well all of District Four — and there was a lot of people had barbecues (fired up).”
To the north, Councillor Laurie Cranton said the Margarees fared comparatively well, with most power restored in 24 hours.
“Compared to what some people are dealing with, which could be a week-long outage, I’d say that’s pretty good,” he said. “There may be others in this area that are still out. I feel for them.”
“A few houses had some minor damage, but nothing too severe. People have lost a lot of decorative trees and (had damage) to front sheds.”
“Lots of trees across the road, and we have lots of trails — I’m sure when we go to look at them there will be trees everywhere, but that’s (comparatively) easy to clean up. It’s not like someone’s livelihood.”
The Margarees had few water shortages compared to the southern county, because almost all homes there have private wells, Cranton said.
“Days like this, it’s nice that everybody’s on their own water system and their own sewer system, and that we look after ourselves.”
Further north, Cheticamp, famous for high winds, was relatively unscathed.
“I had family members attending a wedding in Cheticamp Saturday night,” Cranton said. “You would think that would be a real rough area in a storm like this. The power never even went out. Really lucky.”
Monday, as the winds quieted, Invernessers proved their resilience, emerging cheerfully, even amid the electric-less silence.
Chainsaws snarled awake as crews began clearing roads and restringing utility lines. Vehicle traffic resumed.
“People are quite remarkable,” MacQuarrie said. “The spirit is good. If it was winter it might be a little harder to bear, but I don’t hear much frustration.”
“(The power is) going on little by little,” Councillor John MacLennan said.
Gas jockey Cameron shrugged off the challenges, saying, “You don’t live long around here without experiencing a few storms.”
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