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Since it opened in 2019, the owners of an off-grid wilderness cabins and lodge nestled in the woods on top of Whycocomagh Mountain have suffered through the COVID-19 pandemic forcing a reduction in visitors.
Now, a weekend that saw heavy precipitation dump on much of Cape Breton has further dampened their accommodations setup.
As Jessica KleinHerenbrink, who co-owns and operates Iron Mountain Wilderness Cabins with her partner, Grant Haverstock, explains, the heavy rains turned the road leading into their business into a mud-caked mess, and made it impossible for anyone to reach their site – only one road connects the business to Trans-Canada Highway 105. And that, she said, translates into zero business and numerous cancelled bookings.
RELYING ON REPAIRED ROADWAY
With the Atlantic bubble set to begin April 19, and hopefully improved weather, KleinHerenbrink is relying heavily on the provincial Department of Transportation and Active Transit, which is responsible for maintaining Whycocomagh Mountain Road, to repair the damaged gravel roadway.
“Since last Sunday, it’s been a foot to two feet of mud,” said KleinHerenbrink. “Now, with the rains from this past weekend, there are now two- to three-foot holes near our driveway. And because the road hasn’t been maintained, the culverts are caved in or buried completely.
“My partner drives a big (Ford) F-250 and it just gets through the deep mud. But he even blew a tire going through there.
“So we called the Department of Transportation and Active Transit and just told them flat out that we can’t open our business – there’s just no way. Ninety per cent of our business can’t even make it up this way; fire and EHS can’t get through. And heaven forbid if anything should happen to either me or my partner.”
In the aftermath of a weekend storm that pummelled freezing rain and ice along the western regions of the island and heavy rains and flood warnings within the CBRM, crews from Nova Scotia Power had been working around the clock to restore electricity to numerous locations across Cape Breton, according to Inverness county Deputy Warden Bonny MacIsaac.
Inverness County, in particular, bore the brunt of the ice and freezing rain that levelled century-old trees and eroded a number of roads, she added.
“It looked like we were on a different planet,” said MacIsaac. “Every blade of grass, every branch, century-old trees down to the ground, all bent over, poles that snapped in half – and everything was just pure white.”
The damage was so extensive, MacIsaac said, that she said repairs will likely take weeks or longer. She added that, while too soon to estimate costs for the repairs, the deputy warden is considering asking the province for possible funding to help clean up the community.
'ASKING THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT'
“I’m going to be asking to see if we could set something up, maybe a cost-share with the provincial government to help our residents,” said MacIsaac. “I think it would be the most cost-effective.”
Cape Breton-Canso MP Mike Kelloway spent much of his Easter weekend touring around the island to view the damages, including spending time in Inverness. While he noted that asking for provincial funding help would be the first step, Kelloway said that “there needs to be a deeper discussion on all levels of government in relation to how much more proactive can we be on infrastructure needs with all the weather changes and what not.”
Nova Scotia Power reported around noon Sunday that more than 12,000 customers were left without electricity, including more than 4,000 customers along Cape Breton’s west coast. By 2 p.m. Tuesday, Nova Scotia Power’s outages map showed 18 outages between Broad Cove Marsh and Port Hood, along with a handful of other areas under investigation.
Meanwhile, the CBRM dealt with its own share of heavy rains and flooding over the weekend, most notably in the Main-a-Dieu area. A Facebook post from the Bateston Volunteer Fire Department showed a dramatic photo of a pickup truck dangling in a chasm cut by the water across the Louisbourg Main-a-Dieu Road close to Boom Pond.
According to District 8 Coun. James Edwards, whose constituency includes the Main-a-Dieu region, the truck belongs to Terry Morash of Louisbourg. The Cape Breton Post did reach out to the Morash residence for comment, but by press time, no call was returned.
“An ambulance was there and they assessed him,” said Edwards, but he could not verify whether Morash was taken to hospital. “The truck was only two weeks old, but now it’s a complete write-off.”
Ian Nathanson is a political reporter with the Cape Breton Post.