In a ‘normal’ year, the long-anticipated opening of the new Colchester East Hants Health Centre may very well have taken top honours for the 2012 news story in the Truro Daily News.
But a double whammy of torrential rains in the area in September certainly did not make for a normal year and, as such, the flooding issue that disrupted so many lives and caused so much financial loss takes the final nod for our top news story of the year.
“This is the worst flood I've seen,” Colchester County Mayor Bob Taylor said, in the wake of tropical storm Leslie, which dropped some 100 millimetres of rain over eastern mainland Nova Scotia on Sept. 10.
“If worst comes to worst, we'll declare a state of emergency, but we're not there yet," he said, as officials continued to monitor the rising water levels.
The flooding resulted in the closure of numerous streets and roads throughout the Truro and Colchester County areas and resulted in dozens of families leaving their homes to take up shelter in emergency sites established by the Canadian Red Cross.
Despite breaching numerous dikes and berms in the area, and causing multi-millions of dollars of damage to residences and businesses throughout the region, Mother Nature had not yet had her fill of causing havoc to the area, however, and on Sept. 23 another 35 millimetres of rain poured down, causing already swollen rivers to rise over their banks once more.
In all, throughout September, Environment Canada reported that Nova Scotia received a total of 386.8 millimetres of rain for the month, about nine times more than the same time the year before.
“It's one of the wettest moments in Eastern Canadian history,” said Environment Canada climatologist David Phillips said at the time.
The massive downpours also smashed a previous September rainfall record for Nova Scotia set in 1996 of 308.7 millimetres.
“You had 200 millimetres more in one month than you had in [June, July, August],” Phillips said. “You made it all up in one swoop.”
September also came within just 0.3 millimetres of the overall monthly record for rainfall in the province, which happened in August 1971.
“You were like a thimbleful of water away,” Phillips said.
The pounding surges that roared down the badly swollen North River ultimately took out large swatches of the berms intended for protection along the area behind Molly’s Dairy Bar and in a couple of other spots further downstream.
And although it initially appeared that the province would not be providing any assistance, that position changed after Premier Darrell Dexter toured the flooded areas and saw first-hand just how much damage had been caused.
In addition to authorizing emergency repairs to the North River berm, in October, a month after the initial flooding, the provincial government announced an increase to its disaster financial assistance plan to residents and business owners who had suffered uninsured damages.
The plan made it possible for home and business owners who earn $2-million a year or less to claim up to $80,000 in disaster funding, an increase from the previous cap of $50,000 per claim. As well, the new plan enabled not-for-profit organizations to be eligible for up to $200,000 in assistance.
In addition to generating overall discussion among officials about the need to find a permanent fix for flooding issues in the region, the September washouts also kick started a series of public sessions within the Town of Truro in an effort to seek solutions specific to Hubtown residents.
Those discussions are continuing but at the most recent meeting on Dec. 17, a number of potential options were highlighted, including seeking provincial river-dredging permits, preparing plans to survey the Salmon River past the CN Bridge to the North River, unclogging ditches and upgrading area dikes, specifically near the Cobequid Educational Centre.
Whatever is decided as an ultimate fix, however, it won’t be quick or cheap.
“It could be $250,000 to half a million for the first year,” Truro Mayor Bill Mills has said, of what is expected to be a long-term effort at turning back the tide on future flood situations.
Other newsmakers: The following list is a ranking of the other top news stories of the year as reported by the Truro Daily News:
NEW HEALTH CENTRE – On Nov. 25, the new Colchester East Hants Health Centre received its first patients, nine years after it was announced that a new facility would be constructed to replace the aging Colchester Regional Hospital, at an ultimate cost of $184 million.
Approximately 90 patients were successfully transferred from the old facility into the new centre in approximately four hours.
BUSINESS CLOSINGS – It was with much proverbial hand wringing and predictions of doom and gloom that Hubtown and area residents begrudgingly accepted the closings of several iconic and long-standing businesses in the downtown area.
Early last year, Truro saw the closings of such business as A.J. Walker & Sons Ltd., hardware store, Margolians clothing store and M.P. Crowell’s furniture store. Instead of the sky falling, as many had feared, however, enterprising entrepreneurs jumped in to create new businesses in the space vacated at Margolians while a brand new Home Hardware store was created in the wake of the A.J. Walkers shutdown, complete with the hiring of all the Walkers employees.
TRURO MAYORAL RACE – “She said she was going for my throat and she wasn't kidding."
Those with the words of Truro Mayor Bill Mills after the conclusion of the municipal election in October when after he narrowly held onto his seat in the closely contested race against first-time candidate Keltie Jones. Mills received 2,228 votes compared to Jones, who had 1,934 voters mark their ballots in her favour, a difference of only 294.
"She did extremely well, especially since she was running for a municipal (seat) for the first time and skipping councillor and going straight for mayor," Mills said, after the count.
Prior to the last election, Mills served as mayor for 15 years following 25 years as a town councillor, one of which was served in Amherst.
MILLBROOK ELECTIONS - On a related news story, another long-serving area politician did not fare as well at the polls, however, when elections were held in Millbrook last February.
In that runoff, Lawrence Paul, who had held the chief’s position for 28 years, was toppled by Robert Gloade, 44, a band councilor of 12 years, with 433 votes compared to 266 achieved by Paul.
"I feel humbled and more or less satisfied that I have the confidence of the community behind me and they feel strongly that I am the right person and we can move forward," Gloade said, at the time. "I do feel a sense of gratitude and a sense of relief that the community has voted and stood behind me and feel that I am the right person for this position.”
N.S.A.C. MERGER - "Let's get on with it."
That was the opinion of Dr. Leslie MacLaren, co-president of the former Nova Scotia Agricultural College, on March 23, following the official announcement that the college was no longer going to be a provincial institution but instead was to be merged with Dalhousie University as a faculty of agriculture.
"We have the opportunity to work with colleagues with a much greater breadth of knowledge to develop the institution," MacLaren said, following the announcement by Agriculture Minister John MacDonell. The merger officially took place July 1.