Road connecting eastern N.L. communities washed out after hurricane Larry
A tree is seen downed after Hurricane Larry crossed over Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula in the early morning hours, in St. John's, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Daly
ST. VINCENT'S-ST. STEPHEN'S-PETER'S RIVER, N.L. -- Residents of a small eastern Newfoundland town had a 250-kilometre drive to get to the post office Monday after a hurricane broke water-level records and wiped out one of their main roads.
Hurricane Larry brought huge storm surges that washed out fishing wharfs, sent waves crashing up onto land and highways and swallowed the road connecting the towns of St. Vincent's and St. Stephen's at the southern end of the Avalon Peninsula. The pounding surf tore down the breakwater along the road and churned parts of the pavement into rubble. The provincial government has advised motorists and residents that the road is closed and impassable until it can be fixed.
The two towns are just a few kilometres apart, but with the road washed out, people in St. Vincent's now have to drive up the peninsula and down the other side of the coast to check their mail in St. Stephen's.
"I nearly blew away myself," Ned Raymond, mayor of St. Vincent's-St. Stephen's-Peter's River, said of the night Larry hit. "This storm we had here on Friday night, it was coming right at me where I live and, my God, I thought for sure I was going to lose everything."
The town was lucky to make it out with just a washed-out road and a breakwater "snapped off like toothpicks," but storms are only getting worse, and towns like his need better infrastructure to deal with them, he said in an interview.
Larry came barrelling up through Placentia Bay on Friday night, making landfall just before midnight Atlantic time as a Category 1 storm, pummelling the Avalon Peninsula with winds gusting to around 145 km/h in St. John's. Along the coast, the sea swelled to record-breaking levels and storm surges swept away fishing wharfs and parts of roads -- especially in Placentia Bay, which separates the Avalon Peninsula from the rest of the island.
"There was extreme storm surge that happened with this and it happened very near high tide, so you already had high water levels to begin with," said Ian Hubbard, a meteorologist with the Canadian Hurricane Centre. Water levels at Argentia, on the east coast of Placentia Bay, reached 3.65 metres, he said, breaking a record set in 1983.
Data is still being compiled to see if Larry broke any wind records, he added.
Hurricanes don't often make it all the way to Newfoundland without first losing steam and being downgraded when they hit the cold Atlantic waters, Hubbard said. The last storm to make landfill as a hurricane was Igor in 2010. Larry was moving so quickly, travelling 750 kilometres in the nine hours before it made landfall, that it didn't have time to cool down, he said.
Back in St. Vincent's, Raymond says he's been asking the government to help pay for a new breakwater for years. The breakwater destroyed by Larry was a high fence-type structure made of small logs. It was built 40 years ago, he said, and it didn't stand a chance.
"I think now this opened their eyes when they see how these old sticks snapped off so easily," he said.
As for the road, Raymond said crews are working to at least get one lane passable so people can check their mail and get to work in nearby towns without having to drive for hours. Premier Andrew Furey phoned him on Sunday to check in and see what the town needed, he said.
"I just hope the government sees the dilemma we're in here, and then we can get cracking to get something done," he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 13, 2021.
-- Written by Sarah Smellie in St. John's, N.L.