Farms wait for power, as recovery from Fiona begins

(courtesy NASA)

September 23, 2022 marked the third horrific — and likely most severe — storm to hit the Maritime provinces since 2003 and brought with it wind and rain that has left several thousand residents, including farmers, reeling from the damage. Days later, some are still without power.

Tropical storm Fiona rolled in late Friday night and tore through the region until Saturday afternoon and, although it was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm, it appears to have surpassed the severity of Hurricane Dorian in September 2019 and Hurricane Juan in September of 2003.

Mary Robinson, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, experienced the storm first-hand, as she calls Prince Edward Island home.

“We had winds over 150 kilometres. It ended mid-afternoon on Saturday and dumped anywhere from 60 to 120 millimetres of rain. So what we’re seeing now, people are taking stock, obviously a huge amount of trees down, wreaking havoc on our power grid and just getting around to to try to assess damage and to try to repair things,” shares Robinson, in the interview below.

She says upwards of 62,000 people are still without power and could be for some time as crews work to reestablish connections.

In the agricultural community, dairy farmers have been relocating herds, fixing barns and other infrastructure. Potato growers have found themselves with severely damaged warehouses and again, no power.

“Most of our dairy farmers have generators to run things, but when we look at potato harvest and getting power to storages that might be remote. That’s going to be tough. We’re probably looking at those more remote locations to be well over a week. Nobody has a crystal ball to say when, but we certainly we know it’s going to be a while,” says Robinson.

With having boots on the ground, Robinson says that the wreckage on PEI is still being assessed and it will be a while still before the full extent of the storm damage is known. Other Atlantic provinces seemed to fare slightly better, although still not an easy mess to wade through, at least from what is being reported in the days following the storm. Robinson says after PEI, Newfoundland likely got hit the hardest, followed by Nova Scotia and then New Brunswick.

While the federal government has offered disaster relief in the past through programs like AgriRecovery, she hopes this will serve as a push for the government to have more programs and guides in place that producers can reference as these types of upheavals happen, so they don’t have to wait to see what their options might be.

“What we see over and over is we lack the ability to be nimble, because we don’t have an upfront commitment. We have AgriRecovery. We have reactive programs. And what we’re hoping is, the government’s going to come to the table and work with groups like the Canadian Federation of Agriculture to develop more plug and play stuff,” says Robinson.  “We need to know, whether you’re in B.C. with an atmospheric flood, or you’re in Saskatchewan, with a drought, or you’re in Nova Scotia with the hurricane Fiona, we need to know that we can move forward in addressing the gaps that we’re seeing at home, that are going to prevent us from continuing to produce, that we can invest and put those solutions in place”.

For now, Robinson says the spirit of the East Coast is showing its true colours as neighbours rally together to lend a helping hand and rebuild that which Fiona tore from them this past weekend.

Listen to Mary Robinson’s conversation with Shaun Haney on the Sept. 27th edition of RealAg Radio below: