HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (AP) – Over the past two days, an unusually long procession of intense thunderstorms dumped record amounts of rain across a wide swath of Canada’s Atlantic coast province of Nova Scotia, causing flash flooding, road washouts and power outages.
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.