Post-tropical storm Fiona hit eastern Quebec early Saturday morning, forcing evacuations and road closures in the Magdalen Islands, which remain under a state of emergency.
During a press conference on Saturday, the acting mayor of the Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Richard Leblanc, indicated that several evacuations took place overnight and early this morning.
“The night is over, but the storm is not over,” Leblanc said.
He said 22 people have been evacuated so far, including six who have been able to find shelter with their families. Four sites are available for any displaced person, Leblanc said, pointing out that they have more capacity, if needed.
As the winds eased slightly Saturday at noon, Leblanc said they should pick up.
Roads are still closed across the island, with trees, flooding and debris making travel dangerous. Residents are also encouraged to limit their water usage, as some municipal water pumps run on generators.
Hydro-Quebec said getting power back to the pumps was a priority. Currently, approximately 1,104 customers are without electricity in the archipelago. Crews will attempt to repair power lines as long as it is safe to do so, a spokesperson said.
One of the two telecommunications cables supplying the Îles-de-la-Madeleine has been damaged, but there is currently no impact on the Internet signal and electronic communications.
The Magdalen Islands Integrated Electronic Communications Network (REICEIM) said it will repair the cable as soon as possible and that backup measures are in place in case communications fail.
Fiona started as a hurricane and was declared a post-tropical storm around midnight Saturday, hours before making landfall in Atlantic Canada.
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On land, about 5,700 people are without electricity in the Gaspé region, which declared its own state of emergency on Saturday.
Route 132 was completely closed in both directions near the town of Percé due to downed utility poles. As in the Îles-de-la-Madeleine, certain regions without electricity are encouraged to conserve water.
Gaspé Mayor Daniel Côté said the southern parts of the region – such as Haldimand, Sandy Beach, Douglastown, Seal Cove and York – were particularly hard hit. The high tide is expected to arrive around mid-afternoon, which could worsen the situation, he added.
There are currently no concerns for anyone’s health or safety, he said.
Addressing the population on Saturday, outgoing Prime Minister Francois Legault said a financial program – similar to those put in place after the Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac floods in 2019 – will be put in place.
“I still want to reassure Quebeckers there that everything that is not covered by regular insurance, we will make sure to have a program to fill the void,” said Legault. “But no one died and that’s what’s most important.”
It’s too early to take a full inventory of the damage and the storm is not over, he said. He advised residents of the archipelago to stay at home at least until tonight, when the storm is expected to ease.
Those in the Gaspé should also be careful as there has been damage, but not as severe as on the islands, Legault said.
Fiona is expected to travel the Lower North Shore throughout Saturday evening, night and Sunday morning.
Although the winds are expected to slow, flooding and other damage is still possible, Legault said.
He acknowledged that extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and that the Government of Quebec will need to work with municipalities on climate adaptation.
Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec government previously pledged $7 billion to improve climate change infrastructure and electrify transportation, though municipalities have yet to receive those funds.
Damage scattered throughout the region
Buildings and roads in the area were affected. In the Îles-de-la-Madeleine, a section of the roof of the Saint-Pierre-de-La Vernière church was torn off and landed in the nearby cemetery.
Half of the roof flew away from the Saint-Pierre-de-La Vernière Catholic Church in Cap-aux-Meules. He blew into the cemetery. pic.twitter.com/645K9heukQ
Lyne Morissette, a marine animal researcher who was on an expedition to the area, is stuck on the islands with her team waiting for the storm to pass.
She said they were working in shifts to protect the ship, currently moored at the dock, and the equipment on board.
“The water was at wharf level almost everywhere, and everyone is on their toes,” she told Radio-Canada. “But it’s nice to see the solidarity of the people – the fishermen, the crew.”
On land, residents of the Îles-de-la-Madeleine are also affected by Fiona. Looking at her artisanal soap factory on Saturday, Ariane Arseneau found her business largely underwater.
“I hope we don’t have too much damage inside, but there is a lot of water,” she told CBC. “There’s more water than Dorian [in 2019].”
Arseneau said she spent the past week preparing for the coming storm. She had left nothing outside and her summer employee – who usually lives in the store – was safe elsewhere for the weekend.
“We’re islanders. We’re not used to that kind of extreme weather, but we’re used to high winds, we’re used to being inundated,” she said.
“As long as no one is injured, no lives are lost and everyone is safe, I’m fine. Structural damage can be repaired.”