Living in climate disaster

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Rain torrents down onto pavement
We’ll avoid cracking jokes with “Set Fire to the Rain” lyrics to avoid listing extreme weather events outside this article’s scope. W.carter via Wikimedia Commons

Heavy rainfall hits coastal Canada causing washouts and evacuations

Recently there have been several major climate events across Canada. On the east coast, areas in New Brunswick reported upwards of 190 mm of rainfall within 24 hours. 

The town of Sussex, located in the Kennebecasis Valley, was the hardest hit. The town activated its highest level of community disaster planning and recommended people avoid travel in the area due to flooded or washed-out roadways. Trout Creek, the waterway running through Sussex, can typically handle a water rise of 1.7 meters. The downpour saw water levels rise to 2.5 meters, nearly doubling the capacity of Trout Creek.  

On February 29 the town of Sussex released a media post stating: “We have evacuated 12 people as of 4:00 [a.m.]. Most impacted residents are requested to shelter in place.” This number of evacuations increased to 14 households as conditions worsened. 

“The reality is, times are changing,” said Public Safety Minister Kris Austin. “We have to mitigate and we have to work towards what our homes will look like around some of these areas — or should we even be building around some of these areas?” 

The town of Sussex is familiar with this scale of flood. Ten years ago in 2014, a similar weather event occurred causing major washout, water damage, and flooding. After the 2014 flood, the town applied for $15 million from the federal government for an estimated $38 million project to mitigate and address climate disaster.  

Since applying, the process has stalled. When a spokesperson from Infrastructure Canada responded to CBC’s request for an update on the funding application, the department declined to comment or give details, stating “partner confidentiality.”  

Scott Hatcher, the town’s chief administrative officer warns that the future of Sussex is at stake. “Without the solution, without the funding, without the mitigation plan — we’re going to die a slow and painful death over the next couple of decades,” Hatcher stated.  

Heavy downpours have been impacting the area for years. After historic flooding in 2014, 2019, 2020, 2022, and most recently in 2024, Hatcher stresses that climate change “is real, it’s here — and unfortunately, our residents are living it.”  

Across the Atlantic region, the summer of 2023 amounted to a record amount of summer rainfall. According to Environment and Climate Change Canada, results show that Yarmouth, Greenwood, Kentville and Sydney in Nova Scotia, along with Saint John and Fredericton in New Brunswick and Charlottetown in PEI recorded their wettest summers on record.  

The Government of Canada says, “We are already seeing the impacts of the climate crisis across the globe with more severe and more frequent wildfires, floods and droughts in many parts of the world. It affects our economy, our infrastructure, our health, and overall well-being too.”  

While the Canadian government does offer initiatives like Canada Greener Homes, carbon rebate, and zero-emission vehicle incentives – all claiming to address climate change— investing in climate-resilient cities is a necessity. This will help cities become resilient to a wider range of climate disasters, and research finds that these incentives ought also be partnered with efforts to promote urban development.  

We are in the midst of rapid, global climate change. The decisions made going forward are critical, especially for communities in the coastal regions of Canada where the impacts are exacerbated.  

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