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Extreme rainfall triggers severe flash floods in Nova Scotia, Canada

Extreme rainfall triggers severe flash floods in Nova Scotia, Canada

In the most significant downpour recorded in over 50 years, Nova Scotia, an Atlantic Canadian province, witnessed severe flash floods near Halifax on Friday, July 21, 2023. Up to 300 mm (4 – 12 inches) of rainfall fell on the region within just several hours, resulting in collapsed roads, compromised bridges, and inundated buildings. At least 4 people, including 2 children, are missing.

Drawing comparisons to heavy rainfall events seen in regions such as Florida, the torrential downpour in Nova Scotia surpassed expectations and norms. Most notably, West Bedford recorded an unofficial total of 251 mm (9.9 inches) of rain on Friday evening (local time). According to radar estimates, some areas may have experienced more than 300 mm (1.8 inches) of rain within just 4 to 5 hours, a severe anomaly considering Halifax typically averages about 95 mm (3.7 inches) of rain during the entire month of July.

Adding to the severity of the situation, these torrential rains hit areas that had been previously devastated by wildfires in late May and early June. The scars left by the fires likely amplified the flooding in the affected regions.

The deluge was attributed to a large plume of tropical moisture moving into the region from the south. “Persistent thunderstorms tapped into this moisture like a reservoir, efficiently wringing out significant amounts of water over the area,” The Weather Network meteorologists explained.

“These are unprecedented rainfall totals for the region, more akin to a heavy rainfall event you’d see somewhere like Florida instead of the Canadian Maritimes.”

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The flooding caused widespread devastation across the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM), with many roads inundated, effectively isolating several communities. As a result, provincial officials urged residents to avoid roads and highways unless faced with an emergency.

On July 22, the Nova Scotia Premier, Tim Houston, declared a state of emergency for the Halifax Regional Municipality, West Hants, East Hants, Lunenburg, and Queens. The declaration enables the release of funds and resources to expedite flood response and restoration efforts.

The flooding has resulted in substantial property damage, with at least seven bridges needing replacement or extensive repairs. Amidst the ongoing efforts to manage the situation, authorities have launched a search for four individuals reported missing in West Hants, when their vehicles were submerged by floodwaters.

Due to the flooding and subsequent road closures in effect across the HRM, officials are continually urging residents to stay away from floodwaters, likely contaminated by hazardous materials such as gasoline and raw sewage.



1 PHOTOS: Significant damage as historic flooding grips Nova Scotia – The Weather Network – July 22/23, 2023

2 Nova Scotia floods cause ‘unimaginable’ damage; four people missing – Reuters -July 23, 2023

Featured image credit: Cape Breton Mesonet @CBmesonet (stillshot)


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