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Long lasting, invisible damage follows Fiona

Post-tropical depression Fiona tossed cars into the basement of Spencer’s Auto in East End on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. – © René J. Roy / Wreckhouse Press

By Jaymie White

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

– with files from René J. Roy

PORT AUX BASQUES — All around Port aux Basques, the physical damage from Hurricane Fiona can clearly be seen. Everywhere you look near the water, the remnants of buildings, communities, and livelihoods lay in heaps of rubble and debris, waiting to be cleaned by workers and volunteers so families can start the process of rebuilding and healing.

There remain unseen damages that some may not even realize, including the feeling of loss of safety and security, the severe vulnerability and immeasurable sadness felt in the sake of such devastation, and those who witnessed things no one should ever have to see.

Frank Spencer, resident of East End and owner of Spencer’s Esso, didn’t sustain any major damage to his properties during the storm, but that doesn’t mean he came through unscathed.

“I didn’t get any damages at the house. I got minimum damage at the garage, and I’ve had an emotion ever since, of survivor’s guilt,” shared Spencer. “It’s a strange emotion to me, to see all the devastation around me, and I haven’t been touched. It’s made me feel uneasy about living so near to the ocean, which I was so proud of, and I don’t feel the same now as I felt before about living near the ocean or having my business near the ocean.”

Spencer said that in the wake of post-tropical depression Fiona, nothing really feels like it used to.

Frank Spencer maintains that he got lucky, but that does not mean he came through the storm entirely unscathed. © René J. Roy / Wreckhouse Press

“It’s just a different feeling now. I used to feel so proud being by the ocean. (There is) a lot more fear. Any big storm coming now, I’ll want to be moving out and I’ll be keeping less valuables in the garage because you don’t know what’s going to happen. Because we didn’t get it this time, I feel like we’re next, in the future.”

Spencer fears that he may not be so lucky the next time a storm of Fiona’s magnitude reaches the area.

“In my house, there is some property loss on both sides of me, and with my garage, there’s been buildings lost on both sides of me. So this luck is not going to last. I feel more vulnerable now than ever because I feel like I dodged a bullet this time, but I won’t get away with it next time.”

Spencer has been living in his home for over 10 years, but the house itself has been there over 100 years.

“The garage has been here since the 40’s, and there was water surrounding the whole garage. Debris was found up in front of the garage. There’s one car completely in my basement and another halfway in, so we haven’t got at it to see what damage is here yet,” said Spencer. “They had been parked down in back of the garage. They were parts cars, but the fact is, these cars are still in my basement. I haven’t assessed the structure damage yet. I haven’t touched anything down there yet.”

Spencer evacuated before Fiona made landfall in Port aux Basques, worried about the size and severity of the storm bearing down on the region.

“I evacuated on Friday because I had a gut feeling that this was going to be a storm that we were going to be talking about for years. My daughter and her son were living at our house and I didn’t ask them. I told them they got to get out of the house and go to our cabin in the Valley. So that’s where I spent the storm, at my cabin in the Valley,” said Spencer. “I got out of here before it hit. I don’t know what made me feel it, but I was out on a test drive, and I was thinking about it and I cut the test drive short to come home to warn my daughter. I cut it short just so I could get out of there on Friday. I just had a feeling. I don’t know why I felt that way, but it apparently was a good call because they would’ve also been evacuated.”

It wasn’t until a few days later that Spencer came back to Port aux Basques to better assess the damage to his properties.

“I came down Sunday morning (Sept. 25) and I sneaked around the coastline and went down to check on it. I didn’t realize I wasn’t allowed down there. I walked around the whole neighbourhood and it was like a ghost town. There was nobody there. I walked around, checked on a few properties, and I came out of it. I don’t know how I was feeling. I was totally dazed at what had went on there. One of the weird things I noticed was a fish up on the sidewalk, a dead fish. When fish come ashore, it’s not a good sign, and the devastation is horrendous.”

Spencer said he is lucky that his family is all safe and sound.

“Everybody is safe and they are slowly getting back into things, very slowly. The last two days I’ve been here, I can’t do anything. Your mind is constantly on your surroundings. It’s a different emotion. It’s a guilty feeling of a survivor. It’s a horrible feeling.”

More than anything, Spencer believes this hurricane is a wakeup call that living along the coastline is not as safe as it once was.

“We’re possibly going to need to be relocated because we just aren’t safe anymore in our own homes. It’s a lot to consider. Certain parts of the town may have to be relocated to a safer area.”

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