Complacency about climate change may have led to unnecessary deaths in the Nova Scotia flooding disaster in July 2023
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In July 2023 an estimated 250 millimetres of rain fell in 24 hours, creating devastating and deadly flooding in portions of Halifax and central Nova Scotia. Some experts say this is the latest example of inadequate state of preparation for climate disasters, reports Canadian Firefighter and several other Canadian media.
The 2023 Nova Scotia floods were a series of floods in the province of Nova Scotia, Canada. Areas in Nova Scotia received 250mm (9.8 inches) of rain in a 24 hour period, causing dramatic flash floods, according to an article on Wikipedia.
On July 22, 2023, a state of emergency was declared in the province, scheduled to last two weeks, ending on August 5. The floods greatly affected the municipalities of Halifax, East Hants, West Hants, as well as the counties of Lunenburg and Queens with estimates of up to 300 millimetres of rain in parts of the province.
Four people presumed dead
Following the flooding, 4 people were reported missing. The body of a missing man was found in on July 24 and unidentified remains of a missing person were also found.
On July 25, 2023, announcements were made that the remains of two children were found in Brooklyn, Nova Scotia, which included the unidentified body that was found the previous day, bringing the official death toll to 3. The r4th missing person, an unidentified younger than 18 years was still allegedly missing when the search was suspended on July 31.
Rainfall widely exceeded Environment Canada forecast
In an article on CBC.ca, poor weather reports are blamed as one of the reasons the situation became so difficult to manage:
Randy MacMillan, chief executive of Scotia Investments Ltd. — the owner of the Minas Basin Pulp and Paper Ltd.'s dam system on the St. Croix River — told Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland during her visit that the rainfall was far exceeding Environment Canada´s forecasts.
"We were told we were getting 40 millimetres of water, but I think we topped out at over 300 millimetres. If you don't have a forecast you can rely on, you have to take safe steps to keep people safe," he told the minister.
"It was unexpected.... Had we known we were getting that much water we would have done steps earlier that would have made our lives easier that night and that morning."
Blair Feltmate, head of the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo, said in an interview Friday that poor weather forecasts, inadequate cell service and a lack of precise flooding disaster plans show that Nova Scotia remains badly prepared for climate crises – as does the country as a whole.
“There’s a sense of complacency …. We must act with urgency to prepare for climate change and extreme weather risks that are only going to get more challenging,” he said in a telephone interview on Friday.
Volunteer firefighters risking their lives to save others - trapped under water
Another article on the CBC discusses the difficult situation Nova Scotia firefighters were put in during the floods.
The text recounts a harrowing flood rescue in rural Nova Scotia conducted by the Tetanish's Brooklyn Volunteer Fire Department. The rescue occurred during heavy rainfall and flooding, and 911 calls started coming in at around 1 a.m. on a Saturday. Brett Tetanish, the deputy chief, and his crew faced challenging conditions, including washed-away bridges, while trying to rescue stranded residents.
One of the rescued individuals was trapped in her flooded home. Firefighter Logan Hope, wearing an ice water suit and tethered, risked his life to enter the water and save her. The floodwaters were strong, and they both got swept away, with Gillingham losing personal belongings, including her engagement ring. Eventually, firefighters formed a human chain to pull them out of the water.
Gillingham suffered a broken leg but expressed gratitude for being alive and credited Hope and the entire crew for saving her life. Hope, in turn, humbly credited his team for their collective effort in the successful rescue.
First responders did a great job considering the circumstances
John Lohr, the province’s minister responsible for the Emergency Management Office, said Thursday that “in the context of what was an extraordinarily confusing situation,” emergency service providers “did an outstanding job.”
“In terms of how the communication centre responded, I’m satisfied we turned those (emergency alert) requests around as quick as we can,” he said. “I think the issue is just responding to what was an entirely unprecedented situation that was not predicted in the weather forecasts either.”
Issues blamed on poor emergency planning in the province - and the country as a whole
An article on Canadian Firefighter, published July 30, 2023, discusses the aftermath of severe flooding in the province of Nova Scotia, Canada on and highlights the province's inadequate state of preparation for climate disasters.
The flooding resulted in fatalities, bridge collapses, and significant damage. Some of the main ideas expressed in the article are:
Inadequate Emergency Preparedness: The emergency alert system in Nova Scotia failed to effectively warn residents about the impending flood. This led to confusion and improvisation during the crisis, with emergency responders having to deal with multiple situations simultaneously.
Poor Weather Forecasts: The meteorological forecasts significantly underestimated the amount of rainfall that occurred during the flood. The discrepancy between the forecasted and actual rainfall amounts contributed to the unexpected severity of the flooding and hampered emergency response efforts.
Lack of Cellular Service: Some areas, particularly rural communities, lacked adequate cellular service, which hindered the delivery of emergency alerts to residents. The absence of reliable communication during climate disasters posed a significant challenge for rescue operations and evacuation efforts.
Insufficient Flood Risk Management: The lack of precise flooding disaster plans and detailed knowledge of flood risks in the province points to a broader issue of poor climate change preparedness. Experts emphasize the need for water conservation authorities and improved flood alert systems to ensure public safety during extreme weather events.
Urgency in Climate Change Adaptation: The text highlights the sense of complacency and the urgent need for action to address climate change and its associated extreme weather risks. It calls for proactive measures to prepare for future climate crises, which are expected to become more challenging with time.
Overall, the text raises concerns about Nova Scotia's state of readiness for climate disasters and calls for immediate action to enhance emergency preparedness, weather forecasting accuracy, and communication infrastructure.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons License
Skyline of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Date24 September 2015, 19:31
Source: Halifax Harbour Sunset Skyline
Author: Tony Webster from Minneapolis, Minnesota
Camera location44° 39′ 50.35″ N, 63° 34′ 15.66″ W