Brian “Smokey” Osmond was cooking at his home in Port aux Basques on the coast of Newfoundland when he saw floodwaters moving into his garage Saturday morning.

Osmond drove his truck up a hill to safety. But as soon as he came back, there was a strong storm.

“I went back to the door and a wave took me and I went down,” he told CBC News. “I thought I left.”

Osmond was dragged to the bay before miraculously freeing himself. When he arrived, soaking wet, at the neighbor’s house, he saw in disbelief that the second wave had completely destroyed his house.

“It was just luck,” he said. “It was not my time to go.”

Since sub-tropical storm Fiona battered Atlantic Canada, the extent of the devastation has been painfully clear to residents. The powerful derecho, the region’s worst ever, killed two people, flattened dozens of homes, washed land into the sea and left hundreds of thousands without power in Nova Scotia, southern Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island. As residents look to arduous cleanup and rebuilding efforts, experts say the hundreds of millions in damage underscore the need to build defensively against the effects of climate change.

“Unfortunately, the reality of climate change is that more extreme weather events are going to happen. We have to think about how to make sure we’re prepared for whatever comes our way, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters as he witnessed the devastation in Nova Scotia. It is by the federal government Sent About 600 Canadian Armed Forces soldiers helped with the cleanup and pledged immediate assistance to residents.

Major urban centers such as Halifax were largely spared the worst of the storm, but homes across the region were reduced to rubble and rubble, roads were washed away and thousands of trees were unceremoniously knocked over the city by strong winds, which gusted up to 190 km/h. peak

As of Wednesday, more than 160,000 people were still without power, and heavy rains in some areas hampered cleanup efforts.

“We’ve been hit with something bigger than we’ve ever been hit before,” Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King told reporters. “We are all feeling the consequences. We are all very fragile. “

Damage caused by Cyclone Fiona in Fox Roost-Margaree, Newfoundland. Photo: Susan Sweet-Skinner/AFP/Getty Images

Prince Edward Island, famous for its agriculture, is bracing for significant destruction of potato, soybean and apple crops, which are among the province’s main economic drivers. Fishing boats and potato storage buildings were also heavily damaged. A Parks Canada spokeswoman said the force of the storm caused “shocking” levels of erosion. Much of the island is made up of isolated red sand, which helps keep the sea at bay. In many areas, the debris washed into the sea and it will take years for nature to rebuild.

While Trudeau lamented the destruction, he praised the “tremendous story of resilience” that had emerged.

In the hard-hit Nova Scotia town of Glace Bay, Carol and Leo Yang, owners of Jay’s Chicken and Ribs, served hundreds of free hot meals to residents, cooking under the light of donated flashlights with a propane stove.

“We started out just trying to help the neighbors. But as a restaurant owner, I knew we could do more,” Carroll told the Guardian.

Hundreds of residents line up outside two Yang’s locations for their first hot meal of the day. Customers, some of whom have no homes to return to, hug her as she hands them boxed food.

“They tell me the food warms their bodies and their hearts,” she said.

She and her husband worked as pharmacists in China before moving to Nova Scotia 10 years ago. He bought the restaurant six years ago and runs it with his young daughter.

Yang says more than 1,000 meals have gone to those in need, and donations have flowed in — both locally and from other provinces — to help her family cook.

According to early estimates from insurance companies, the devastation is expected to cost billions, making it the costliest storm in the region’s history. Since storm surge is not covered by insurance, many residents will have to bear the cost themselves.

“This kind of destruction actually gives us a golden opportunity to turn things around for the better,” said Glenn McGillivray, managing director of the Institute for Disaster Reduction. “And that’s critical because we’re going to see more of these in the future in these intense storms. Climate change is its direct cause. The East Coast will have to prepare well.”

He said that all new infrastructure projects or reconstruction should go through a weather climate assessment. McGillivray cautioned against rebuilding in areas most vulnerable to climate change, including coastal communities.

“The storm did what the forecasters did. He went where he said he would go. And as they say it was as powerful as it was going to be. The damage is caused by very high winds, very heavy rains and storm surges, especially in small, isolated communities,” he said.

“And so we saw those Newfoundland saltbox buildings, sitting on the rocks you see on postcards, couldn’t handle that kind of storm.”

While Ottawa has increasingly highlighted and supported reforms in construction, McGillivray says more needs to be done for flexibility in the federal building code.

“We have a tendency to keep things as they were. Everyone wants to get their lives back on track as soon as possible, which is understandable. But that will not work in a changing environment.”

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