Monday's wind and rain storm left many people in Cape Breton dealing with issues that are hard to imagine. Feet of contaminated water in their homes, oils tanks ripped from houses, and property washed away.

Even knowing where to start seems daunting, but that hasn't stopped people from jumping in to help, even if they themselves could use some assistance.     

“It’s just complete devastation. There's a smell of oil all over," says homeowner Terry Drohan.

On the weekend, Drohan and his family had Thanksgiving dinner at his home. Now, his entire ground floor is covered in oil and sewage. The house is likely a write-off.

Neighbours are wearing gas masks because the smell of oil is so strong.

"All our homes are ruined.  You can't live in these houses.  You can get a headache within five minutes of standing around here,” says Sydney resident Rob Clemens.

People living in the area are frustrated at what they feel is a lack of answers from government officials and insurance companies.

"We've been waiting now for roughly 40 hours or so to hear from somebody to tell us what the next steps are,” says Drohan.

There has been plenty of help during one of the scariest times the area has ever seen.

"I lost track of how many emails I got from my co-workers, offering food, a place to stay,” says Sydney resident Karen MacDonald.

"The other people and the goodwill of them, it just made you feel better about the situation. It seemed so helpless yesterday," says Sydney resident Tom McNeil.

The manager of a local call centre is gathering school supplies for the children at Brookland Elementary, which lost nearly all their books in the flood.

"Help them retrieve or purchase some stuff, supplies for them, even some sneakers, whatever the case may be. Because we do know that they did lose an awful lot of valuable things,” says Todd Riley.

During this time of despair, residents are starting to smile again thanks to the kindness of others.

"It's just comforting," says MacDonald.

"At a time like this, it restores your faith in humanity, I guess," says McNeil.

It is that kind of deep-seated feeling residents say will carry them through, as they start piecing their lives back together.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Ryan MacDonald.