High winds damage historic church, wharf in Digby County

People in Belliveaus Cove, N.S., are assessing damage after high winds whipped through the Digby County community Friday, damaging a wharf, lighthouse and a historic church.

The gusts reached 120 km/h and caused buildings to shake, said Christiane Thériault, who chairs the Belliveau Cove Development Commission.

Her office is between two wharfs and when she went to check on the area, she found seaweed scattered everywhere.

“It kind of looked like the wharf had exploded,” she said. “My heart dropped and I ran, really as fast as I could to see what the damage was.”

Volunteers spent hours last summer working on the lighthouse and wharf, and may have to redo their work. (Submitted by Christiane Thériault)

Last summer, volunteers from the community painted the lighthouse and fixed up the wharf by replacing shingles and rotten boards.

“In one big wave, probably, half of those shingles are floating now. They’re gone. It’s pretty sad. All the time and effort and money and hard effort to volunteer to get it done, all to be gone in an instant,” Thériault said.

The storm dislodged some rocks under the lighthouse, but she said it still appears secure for the moment, although it could be at risk if high tides pull away more of the rocks.

The wharf is not used by commercial fishermen, so it’s maintained by the community, Thériault said. The next step will be looking for any applicable grants to repair it as the work will likely be expensive.

The wind also ripped into one of the oldest and tallest wooden buildings in North America: the Sainte-Marie Catholic Church in Clare.

Rocks and beams around the lighthouse washed away. (Submitted by Christiane Thériault)

Thériault said a chunk of the steeple flew off and people are concerned rain leaking inside will damage the historic building.

“Everybody is scrambling on their feet right now to Band-Aid it, see what they can do,” Thériault said of the storm damage.

A section of the steeple of Sainte-Marie Catholic Church in Clare, N.S., blew away. (Submitted by Christiane Thériault)

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