Fiona has reshaped PEI’s coastlines, fueling fears for the island’s future

A picture of how much post-Tropical Storm Fiona has reshaped Prince Edward Island is beginning to emerge — and in some cases has erased entire coastlines of sand and rock.

The storm struck PEI in the early morning hours of September 24, leaving behind widespread destruction.

Six days into Fiona, the cleanup is far from over, with most of the island still without power, and fallen trees and power lines still blocking driveways and roads.

As islanders embark on the long road to recovery, many are wondering where to rebuild and how far from shore is safe enough.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” says Oyster Bed Bridge resident Wayne McCaron, whose house is now closer to the water after Fiona pulled a twenty-foot section out of the cliff.

McCaron’s house is still a few hundred yards from the water, but a small house nearby now stands on the edge.

Oyster Bed Bridge resident Wayne McCaron says he’s never seen anything like this storm. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

“Come on this winter, if we get some storm surges…I feel sorry for this guy if he doesn’t get out soon,” McCaron said.

“Whatever he’s going to save there, it’s pretty good that stone walls are going to save him now. Expensive!’

‘Now it’s just straight down’

McCaron’s neighbor, Jonathan Davidson, says the wave was so high that heavy iron oyster cages were thrown right into the treetops.

And there used to be – like, stairs went down. Some properties had stairs and they just washed away,” he said.

“You can see now how sharp a slope is. It’s just — it’s a cliff,” Davidson said. “There was a pretty decent figure you could walk down at one point, but now it’s just straight down.”

Jonathan Davidson says stairs to beaches were washed away in the storm. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

Further along PEI’s North Shore, the entrance to Brackley Beach in PEI National Park was guarded by Parks Canada employees on Wednesday. Fiona caused the worst damage the park’s iconic sand dunes have seen in a century, making the dunes dangerously unstable.

“What we saw was completely eroded away up to 10 meters from the dune,” said Chris Housser, a professor at the University of Windsor environmental school who specializes in coastal science.

“It’s almost as if someone has cut the dune completely in half – about 40 percent of the volume of sand in the dune has been lost on the near shore. It will eventually come back, but it will take a lot of time – years to potentially even a decade. “

PEI’s Brackley Beach, seen before and after Fiona. (The Coastie Initiative)

‘The word I have to use is the word move’

Fiona voraciously ate parts of the Atlantic coast of Canada, wrecking wharves and sucking houses and shoreline into the sea.

The devastation left in the storm’s wake has led the federal government to call for more action on shoreline erosion, building breakwaters and raising wharves.

At a briefing on Wednesday, Infrastructure Secretary Dominic LeBlanc acknowledged the need for the federal government to act quickly with new programs and more money.

The storm forever changed huge swaths of the PEI National Park shoreline. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

“The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has tens of millions of dollars annually to repair small artisan ports,” he said.

“Obviously that will need to be expanded in light of what has happened, and I am confident it will. We are in the process of revamping some of our federal infrastructure programs.”

Leblanc said he is meeting with provincial and territorial infrastructure ministers to map out the next generation of infrastructure programs.

“We now have some money available for disaster mitigation and adaptation. This is a direct line to climate change … and to these atmospheric events,” he said.

“In the part of the country that I represent, Atlantic Canada, it is precisely these coastal communities that, in the event of a hurricane like we saw last week, will bear the brunt of these losses… So we need to find the right instructions to making sure people are protected.”

Before and after satellite images show the extent of destruction at PEI (CBC)

Retired scientist Denis Gilbert of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans says the unfortunate truth for many people is that they may have to move.

“I’ll be very honest and give you the full scope of my thoughts without any filter. I honestly think all over Canada – and in the world – people are putting blinders on their eyes and trying to preserve what is there,” he said. .

The discussions always have the effect of, “Why isn’t my city or county or federal government building a nice brick wall…to protect my home?” The word I have to use is the word ‘move’.”

Leave a Comment