February 26, 2024

4 missing after spill down Canada’s Atlantic coast causes flooding

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (AP) – Four people are missing after intense thunderstorms dumped the most rainfall across a swath of Canada’s Atlantic coast province of Nova Scotia in two days, causing flash flooding, road washouts and power outages.

The floods submerged multiple vehicles, and Royal Canadian Mounted Police spokeswoman Cindy Bayers said two such incidents in West Hants north of Halifax left two adults and two children unaccounted for Saturday morning.

The two children went missing after the vehicle they were traveling in became stuck in water, Bayers said, noting that the other three occupants were able to escape safely.

Two others, described by Bayers as a juvenile and a man, remain unaccounted for after a separate vehicle sank. Two others were rescued in that vehicle, she said, adding that the police are actively searching for the four missing people.

Torrential downpours began Friday afternoon across the Halifax region, dumping more than 200 millimeters of rain in some areas. The port city usually receives about 90-100 mm of rain during July on average.

Based on radar estimates and unofficial observations, Environment Canada said Saturday that some areas could have received more than 300 mm in 24 hours. Radar maps show the heaviest rain extending along the southwest coast of the province to a point north of Halifax.

Widespread flooding was also reported in Lunenberg County, which is west of the Halifax region.

On Friday night, water levels rose so quickly in the Bedford area that volunteers with Halifax Search and Rescue were using small boats to rescue people from submerged homes.

In the Hammonds Plains area, northwest of the city, flooding washed out driveways and shoulders of many roads.

That’s the same area where a wildfire that started on May 28 destroyed 151 homes and businesses, prompting evacuations that affected 16,000 residents. And for much of the past week, the Halifax area has been sweltering under an immovable dome of moisture – a rare occurrence so close to the coast.

It was only last fall that post-tropical storm Fiona descended on the Atlantic region, killing three people, toppling scores of homes and knocking out power to more than 600,000 homes and businesses. Fiona was the costliest weather event in the region’s history, causing insured damage of more than 800 million Canadian dollars ($604 million).

“It’s pretty clear that the climate is changing – from Fiona last year to the spring wildfires and now the summer floods,” Halifax Mayor Mike Savage said.

“We’re getting storms that used to be once-in-50-year events … on a regular basis,” he said.

Although the official statistics have yet to be recorded, it is believed that the Halifax region has not seen this level of rain since August 16, 1971, when hurricane Beth made landfall near the eastern edge of mainland Nova Scotia and then roared over Cape Breton. At that time, almost 250 mm of rain fell on the Halifax area, causing widespread flooding and damage.

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