by Rosalyn Roy
– with files from Ryan King
SOUTHWEST COAST - Heavy rains and flooding have resulted in a number of washouts along the Southwest Coast. The Trans Canada Highway from North Branch to Tompkins has washed out, as well as a section near the weigh scales outside of Channel-Port aux Basques. Along Route 470, heavy flooding near the Port aux Basques reservoir has necessitated the road's closure. This means communities are not only cut off from the rest of the province, they are cut off from each other.
The Channel-Port aux Basques Volunteer Fire Department has advised that it cannot respond to emergencies outside of town limits due to the wash outs. The department typically responds to highway accidents as far as the Codroy Pond area as it has the Jaws of Life.
“No, we cannot get up the highway because the road has been washed out. We've just been notified about 15 minutes ago that at the weight scales it's impossible to get through. No way of getting through. Actually, my understanding is we're going to put the barricade on the highway there just up past the police station shortly,” said Fire Chief Jerry Musseau.
The fire department has agreements with other communities to support each other, though the weather has cut off access to some of these communities.
“We're not able to get anywhere. We're not even able to get to Cape Ray, or anywhere in the Codroy Valley as of now,” said Musseau.
Additionally, the Town of Rose Blanche has advised that the Burnt Island Bridge is Closed, and no vehicles are allowed to drive through unless it is an emergency. Port aux Basques is urging water residents to conserve water as its infrastructure continues to grapple with the onslaught.
MHA Andrew Parsons (Burgeo - La Poile) has been in close contact with mayors of all coastal communities. He has seen communities in his district isolated by weather before, but in terms of infrastructure damage, he admits the current storm is the worst he can recall.
"You try to be ready for it, but when you see the pictures it still just shakes you," says Parsons.
He is focusing on the silver lining, which is that people are safe and that there is currently no loss of power. Until the storm is over, Parsons says the situation remains unpredictable.
"You can't figure out timelines yet because it's literally still happening as it relates to roads," says Parsons. "But in terms of emergency situations and vulnerable people, there's going to be air access and air service available. So that's not going to be an issue there."
Parsons shared that Burgeo, Ramea and Grey River are so far faring a bit better and that they haven't been cut off like much of his district.
"People just have to sit tight."
Residents looking to keep up to date on road closures can go to the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure website: https://www.511nl.ca/en/map.html
There is also the free provincial app, 511 NL, which also provides up to date information on road closures.