Our ancestors have endured many floods
I live in the boondocks near several rivers. Usually these rivers are slow moving, meandering through the landscape as if every day was a Sunday morning.
Only a month ago, they were low, their muddy banks visible and in some places, I could walk across wearing only rubbers. Now, I wouldn’t venture across wearing hip waders. The current is swift and the banks have disappeared beneath rushing water.
The May rains have brought too much water all at once, and large areas of the Maritimes and beyond have seen massive flooding.
In my almost 50 years, I’ve seen several memorable floods, but they have never directly affected my house.
Whether through good sense or sheer luck, my parents never lived in an area prone to flooding.
I live on a large hill, and although I can see the swelled river below, it would take an event never seen before in the Maritimes to flood my basement.
Although I dislike my paths turned into quagmire and I fear losing my rubbers every time I feed the goats, it’s a minor inconvenience. Not everyone is as lucky as I am.
Living on the coast with many rivers crisscrossing the landscape, flooding has always been part of our lives. Usually, but not always, flooding historically occurred in the spring with the combination of snowmelt, spring rains and ice jams.
In New Brunswick, major floods occurred in 1887, 1923, 1936, 1970, 1973, 1976, 1979 and 1987. Although heavy rainfalls have caused 43 per cent of the floods, ice jams in combination with snowmelt and heavy rain have caused more damage. The February 1970 flood destroyed 32 bridges and damaged another 124. Remnants of hurricanes such as Edna (1954), Gladys (1968) and Belle (1976) caused disastrous flooding.
Storms have been recorded in Nova Scotia since 1759. Sixtyfive floods have occurred in this time. The two most damaging floods occurred in January 1956 and April 1962.
Notable hurricanes that caused floods were Beth (1971) and Juan (2003). Tropical storms sweeping through the area resulting in floods were Ethel (1964), Gladys (1968) and the unnamed storms in September 1936 and August 1950.
Besides the storms of the past two decades, the one that stands out in my memory was dubbed the Groundhog Day Storm of 1976. I was eight, and I remember walking around my neighbourhood to see the blowndown sheds and debris scattered about. Like many storms, this one delivered a storm surge that flooded coastal areas.
Today, we have regulations in place to limit or eliminate building homes in areas with a high potential to flood, but our ancestors weren’t as fortunate. Still, with the availability of land, if they knew how rivers could overflow during storms, they would have opted for higher ground.
Knowing the weather events that struck areas where our ancestors lived might provide insight into deaths, injuries or moves from the area. Floods not only destroyed buildings and infrastructure but claimed lives and livelihoods.
To learn more about floods in New Brunswick, visit the Flood History Database website (http://www.elgegl.gnb. ca/0001). It contains information on flood events from 1696 to the present.
To learn more about floods in Nova Scotia, visit the NS Flood Event Database website (http:// nsfloodhistory.management. dal.ca).
The database at the top of the page ranges from 1992 to 2015, and the one at the bottom is for 1759 to 1987.