STRAIT AREA: Power outages, poor road conditions, a fatal accident in Richmond County and an unexpected overnight stay in Whycocomagh for several Maritime Bus passengers were among the outcomes of a series of storms that lashed Cape Breton and northeastern Nova Scotia last week.
Heavy snowfall and frequent white-out conditions made driving treacherous Thursday evening and throughout most of Friday, and RCMP officials shut down Highway 104 between Exits 45 and 46 for most of Friday following an early-morning accident that claimed the life of a 52-year-old woman from Louisdale. An RCMP traffic re-constructionist was also called to investigate the accident scene.
Later identified by police officials as Theresa Ann Landry, the accident victim was driving to her job as a chef at the Strait-Richmond Hospital when, according to an RCMP statement, her vehicle collided with an oncoming vehicle on the highway through Evanston. Landry was determined to have died at the scene of the accident, while the driver of the other vehicle was not injured.
“Our thoughts are with the victim’s family at this difficult time,” Nova Scotia RCMP Media Relations Officer, Cst. Jennifer Clarke, said in a statement released Friday morning.
Friday’s treacherous weather resulted in the closure of several businesses, schools, government offices and related services around the Strait area, including provincial Department of Community Services offices in Antigonish, Guysborough, and Inverness counties, as well as Port Hawkesbury, the Nova Scotia Environment (NSE) offices in Antigonish County and Port Hawkesbury, the Access Nova Scotia centres in Port Hawkesbury and Antigonish, and the provincial Labour and Advanced Education (LAE) office in Port Hawkesbury.
Scattered power outages were reported throughout the weekend in such areas as Port Hawkesbury, Isle Madame and Port Hood, with the latter community receiving a cumulative 27 hours without electricity over a two-day stretch. While most customers had their power restored as of Monday morning, small numbers of residents found themselves without electricity in such communities as Port Hawkesbury, West Bay, Malagawatch, Monastery, and western Guysborough County.
Friday’s unpredictable weather, accompanied by daytime highs of -15 Celsius, led to an unforgettable adventure for several Maritime Bus travelers from the Sydney area, including four teenagers from Spain participating in the Nova Scotia International Student Program (NSISP), two of their adult chaperones, Cape Breton University (CBU) students from India and Japan, and Cape Breton Screaming Eagles major junior hockey player Peyton Hoyt.
Heading towards mainland Nova Scotia after a snow-ravaged drive over Kelly’s Mountain, the bus’s driver was forced to pull over in Whycocomagh to reassess the situation after learning that both the Canso Causeway and the Seal Island Bridge were closed to highway traffic. Following a mid-afternoon decision by the driver to stay off Trans-Canada Highway 105, the owners of Vi’s Restaurant rounded up blankets from local residents and the community’s volunteer fire department and allowed their visitors to stay overnight in the long-running eatery after it had closed for the day late Friday afternoon.
“We figured we were all going to end up sleeping on the bus – Vi’s had wanted to close, but it seems that they came to a decision where, ‘If you guys are going to be stuck here, we’re not going to leave you stuck.’ So they stayed around long enough to cook us supper,” recalled chaperone Jillian Sexton.
“They told us, ‘The kitchen is there, there’s bread, there’s peanut butter, help yourself if you want to have toast or something like that during the night.’ They wanted us to lock the doors behind them and they would be back the next morning… And the restaurant owners came back at around 5 a.m. [Saturday] and cooked us all a free breakfast of bacon, ham, pancakes and toast.”
While the Spanish-speaking NSISP students, along with several others from across Nova Scotia, were unable to secure a flight home from Robert L. Stanfield International Airport in Halifax until Sunday evening, they made the best of their unusual situation in Whycocomagh, Sexton added.
“They were happy to be stuck in a snowstorm – these are students from a place that doesn’t get snow, so it was an adventure to them,” she marveled.
“And they were more excited about having a Screaming Eagles hockey player there, who was the same age. He’s only 17, but he was like a celebrity to them.”