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Former Estevan resident reflects on damage in P.E.I. from Fiona’s fury

Josh Lewis saw lots of damage where he lives in P.E.I., but recognizes other areas were hit harder.

ESTEVAN - A former Estevan resident now living in P.E.I. had an up-close look at the impact generated by Post Tropical Storm Fiona late last month.

Josh Lewis, a former sports reporter for the Mercury who resided in Estevan from 2011-2015, now lives in Montague, a community of more than 2,000 people where he writes for the Eastern Graphic newspaper.

Fiona was a post-tropical storm when it hit the area, and the worst of the storm in Montague was from about 2 a.m. to noon on Sept. 24, but the rain and wind lingered throughout the day. Then the cleanup process began.

“All of P.E.I. was hit badly, but eastern P.E.I. got the worst of it. The track of the storm went over northern Nova Scotia and eastern P.E.I.,” said Lewis.

When he went outside after Fiona hit, Lewis said the damage was “unbelievable” in terms of downed trees and other debris. And it was the same story through much of the province.

“It was pretty extensive no matter where you go on P.E.I.,” said Lewis. “It was definitely not comparable with any hurricanes we had in the past.”

The wharves in Montague and nearby Georgetown escaped relatively unscathed, but one wharf in a community not far away disappeared entirely and another was destroyed.

Agriculture was hit hard, he said, as a lot of cornfields were flattened by Fiona. 

The storm surge on the north coast of P.E.I. caused the kind of damage in terms of erosion and washing away sand that would have taken decades due to climate change. The Teacup Rock, which was a popular tourist attraction on the north shore of the island, was ruined.

Power outages were also widespread. Lewis noted that by the end of Sept. 25, power had been restored to Main Street in Montague, which is part of the Three Rivers Municipality. Electricity was back on at the newspaper’s office the following morning, hours before the Eastern Graphic went to print.

“We have never failed to put out a paper in the history of the Eastern Graphic since 1963, and this could be the first time,” said Lewis.

The paper is printed in Pictou, N.S., which was also hit hard by the storm, but their power was also back in time for the paper.

“The first few days were dealing with the impact at home with no power … while also putting out a really consequential issue of the paper, which only had Monday to try to encompass the entire impact of it from all angles. As you can imagine, there’s so many angles after a storm of this impact,” he said. 

The electricity in Lewis’ home was restored in the late afternoon of Sept. 27, about 90 hours after it first went out.

He hopes the impact of Fiona on Islanders is captured through the media coverage. It’s sad to see the tourism attractions lost, but it’s been harder for people who are struggling to get by financially and now have an added burden. The province was already going through a cost of living crisis, he said.

Lewis pointed out that P.E.I. and the rest of Atlantic Canada have a great community spirit and neighbours are keen to help each other out and ask what they can do.

“The resilience has definitely been there and that’s helped people cope,” said Lewis.

At the same time, the challenges associated with a storm like Fiona grated on people. Some were without power in early October.

“Even in my situation, where I didn’t have a tree fall on my house, I didn’t have a business that suffered catastrophic damage, but by Day 4, your patience is wearing thin, so I can only imagine the people that were still without power … and some of those people who did have damage to their homes.” 

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