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Students discuss the need for change

By Kelly Bragg

Special to Wreckhouse Press

– with files from Rosalyn Roy

MARGAREE – FOX ROOST — A young student from Germany got a little bit more than she bargained for after accepting an exchange program placement in Newfoundland and Labrador this fall.

In Margaree-Fox Roost, 16-year-old Linn Schafer is studying at Legallais Memorial in Isle aux Morts while staying with 15-year-old Gina Carroll and her parents. The tiny settlement of Margaree is a mere just a 15-minute drive east of Port aux Basques, along the Southwest coast of the island on Route 470.

Schafer arrived before the start of class in September and was just getting comfortable with the Newfoundland terrain, its notoriously unpredictable climate and unique dialects and culture, when post-tropical depression Fiona arrived on the Southwest Coast. And Fiona certainly wasn’t something positive to enhance the cultural experience.

Fiona touched down and wreaked havoc in Nova Scotia, PEI and parts of New Brunswick on Friday night, Sept. 24, leaving a path of destruction along the way before descending on the Southwest coast and its string of tiny outport communities.

Entire homes, an apartment building, sheds, wharves and stages closest to the ocean were completely obliterated or swept out to sea by the powerful storm surge that hit on Saturday morning.

Schafer says that the experience was one she will likely never forget. The two students were wandering through the community on Monday, Sept. 26, taking photos and discussing the storm, the aftermath, and what the future may hold for coastal communities thanks to climate change.

“It’s really hard to see. It’s all destroyed. The houses aren’t there. It’s all gone and it’s really crazy.”

Carroll has grown up in Margaree and like most living alongside the water is used to storms, but said this was her first time experiencing one of this size and intensity. She was also frightened.

“I didn’t expect it to be this bad. A lot of destruction has happened in our town and it’s kind of sad.”

As the two new friends walk around Margaree two days later, they were astonished at the debris and destruction. Nevertheless they realize that it could have been much worse.

“I’m not sure about houses, but I know a few sheds have been washed away,” said Carroll. “We live on the shoreline. We did lose a few shingles on our garage and some siding on our house and our patio, but other than that we were all prepared.”

Carroll is thankful her family heeded the warnings.

“We listened to everything, and we did what those on the news told us to do.”

But even reassured that they had done everything they could to prepare, Carroll says when the hurricane started she wasn’t sure that it will be enough after all.

“I was a little bit scared, honestly. I didn’t know what to think at first. Everything was just… it was just too much to take in.”

Schafer said that the powerful winds were something she had never felt or heard prior to experiencing Fiona.

“I was scared to be honest because it’s so different and I never thought it could be so hard and so large. It’s really crazy.”

Carroll echoed that sentiment.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before.”

Back at her home in Hamburg, Germany, Schafer says the weather is much more settled and predictable, but she’s worried that climate change is responsible for uncommonly and increasingly harsher weather events like Fiona.

“The ocean is more warm and will bring more hurricanes,” she says.

Carroll says people will have to find ways to adapt as the Earth’s temperature increases.

“I think climate change is going to affect more future hurricanes and I think we may have to build away from the water a little bit more.”

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