A Trail man still gets emotional months following the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona.
Most know Mauro Corazza’s friendly face from Ferraro Foods in downtown Trail, but just over two months ago, Corazza travelled from Trail to Cornwall, Prince Edward Island (PEI) to visit family just days after the devastating hurricane made landfall (Sept. 24).
Corazza moved to PEI in 1992, and since coming to Trail has been going back every year to see his daughters and celebrate his grandson’s birthday.
“I have never experienced in all my years living there a storm or hurricane like this,” added Corazza. “Hurricane Juan was mild compared to what Fiona did. Prince Edward Island is not the same island as it was.”
On his flight in, Corazza expected damage as Fortis workers from Quebec, Ontario and Alberta as well as Army personnel shared the same flight, but was surprised at its extent.
“When I went to get my cab, that was when it reality hit,” Corazza recalled. “It was total darkness. The only lights that you could see were the lights from the cabs.”
The storm caused major flooding in PEI, as well as Quebec’s Magdalen Islands, southeastern New Brunswick, northeastern Nova Scotia, and southern Newfoundland. Thousands of trees were knocked down and uprooted in most of PEI and across the Maritime provinces.
Along the North River Causeway, telephone poles lay scattered on the ground, as vehicles weaved through the downed poles and wires.
“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” said Corazza. “Everything was black, all I could see was telephone poles snapped in half, transformers were on the highway, wires everywhere, and trees uprooted.”
Corazza’s family had endured the 170-km/h winds of Hurricane Fiona, a large, powerful, and destructive Category 4 Atlantic hurricane, which was the costliest and most intense tropical or post-tropical cyclone to hit Canada on record.
“We were without power for 11 days,” said Corazza. “The population of Prince Edward Island is about 120,000 people, and there were about 110,000 customers without power.”
Corazza set up an outdoor kitchen at his former wife’s home, with a Coleman stove, coolers, candles and lanterns. He spent all day cleaning up the yard, sawing by hand several downed trees and branches, and gathering other debris blown in by the strong winds.
Despite the devastation, and to Corazza’s relief, his family came away relatively unscathed. It’s not the first time they’ve weathered storms and hurricanes, but Fiona was one of the worst.
“This one, for some unknown reason the eye of the storm was a mile wide, with 180 to 200-km wind, and when it made landfall, it was like, ‘I’m ripping you apart!’ and that’s what it did.”
Gas stations ran out of gas, stores were closed until power was restored but then soon ran out of supplies, fishermen lost their boats and livelihood, wharves and houses surrendered to the pounding waves.
But through it all, Corazza was impressed with how the communities came together to help each other. Community centres opened so residents could go and shower, volunteers provided hot dinners, and neighbourhoods helped others that were affected most.
This year, Mauro was there for 31 days and spent 29 of those assisting in the clean up that is still ongoing.
“After the 29th day, I said to my daughter, ‘That’s it, I’m done. I can’t do another thing. I was emotionally, physically, and mentally drained.”
Even after Corazza returned to Trail, he says, he still gets emotional looking at the pictures and videos of the fierceness of hurricane Fiona.
“As an adult it finally hit, and sometimes when I look at them and I remember, I start crying.
“It’s the first time a hurricane has ever done that to me.”
The fierceness of Fiona
Fiona had wind gusts of 180 km/h (111 mph) were reported in Arisaig, Nova Scotia with a record high water height (before waves) of 2.73 meters (9.0 ft) in Channel-Port aux Basques, Newfoundland.
Fiona left more than 500,000 customers without power, including 95 per cent of PEI customers and 80 per cent of all Nova Scotia customers.
A Port aux Basques woman was killed when her home was destroyed and she was swept into the ocean; another person died of carbon monoxide poisoning while operating an electrical generator in PEI.
Another man in Lower Prospect, Nova Scotia was swept out to sea and presumed dead.
Teacup Rock, a rock formation and local tourist attraction on the coast near Thunder Cove, PEI, was destroyed after Hurricane Fiona struck.
Fiona also caused severe erosion to the province’s dune system, particularly within PEI National Park.