Monday, August 08, 2016

Wildfire risk leads to hiking, camping restrictions in Nova Scotia forests

Restrictions on provincial Crown land as well as Kejimkujik National Park's back country

By Elizabeth McMillan, CBC News Posted: Aug 08, 2016 2:52 PM AT Last Updated: Aug 08, 2016 5:50 PM AT
Hiking, camping, fishing and using off-highway vehicles in forests across Nova Scotia is being restricted due to concerns about the spread of wildfires.

Natural Resources Minister Lloyd Hines says the restrictions on provincial Crown land will be effective at noon on Tuesday. He says people will still be able to visit provincial parks, beaches and campgrounds that are close to roads.

But areas that require access through wooded areas will be restricted.

For example, Cape Split Provincial Park is open but access to its trail system is not, because it goes through the woods. On the other hand, access to beaches such as Lawrencetown and Rainbow Haven won't be restricted because visitors can easily walk from the parking lot to the picnic or beach areas.

"We recognize these restrictions pose an inconvenience for Nova Scotians and visitors. However, our top priority has to be safety," he said Monday.

"Conditions in some regions of the province haven't been this dry in 15 years."

Kejimkujik's back country closed

Workers at parks will be spreading the word, and anyone caught trying to sneak in could face a fine of $180.
Hines said the restrictions will remain in effect for two weeks before the province will reassess the situation.

Parks Canada is also closing back country campsites and trails within Kejimkujik National Park until further notice, the agency said Monday.
28 parties in the woods as of Monday afternoon
"We'll be contacting everyone who is currently in the back country and asking them to make their way back into the front country section of the park," said Danielle Hickey, a spokeswoman for Parks Canada.

"We're not asking for a rush or an evacuation, we want people to be safe in their return. But we are asking them to begin their way."

Hickey said there are 28 parties in Kejimkujik's back country as of Monday afternoon. They will be contacted by phone and if they can't be reached, staff will be sent into the woods to look for them.

Permits required for some activity

The provincial restrictions will also apply to forestry and commercial activities. Hines is encouraging companies to restrict their activities to the evening hours, when it's cooler.

People working, hunting or fishing on Crown land will also need permits from local DNR offices, Hines said.

"This situation requires the co-operation of everyone who uses our forests," he said.

Seven Mile Lake fire out of control

The travel restriction also affects private property. Anyone conducting commercial activity is required to get permission from private landowners to access land held privately.

Walter Fanning, the executive director of regional services for the Department of Natural Resources, says it's important to know where people are in case of a wildfire.

Hines says it's costing up to $200,000 a day to fight three forest fires in the western part of the province.

Two of the fires are contained, but a 140-hectare fire in Seven Mile Lake is still considered out of control.

Sunday’s tornado watch advisory a rare event for Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia

SYDNEY — The tornado watch issued for southeastern Cape Breton during a tumultuous few hours of weather late Sunday afternoon was a rare occurrence for the island, according to an Environment Canada meteorologist.

A tornado watch was issued for Sydney Metro and Cape Breton County at 5:37 p.m. Sunday and ended less than an hour later at 6:24 p.m., as an intense thunderstorm moved across the southern part of the island.

“The thunderstorm itself started right around Antigonish County and it moved right over to Port Hawkesbury and right up the eastern side of Cape Breton,” said Tracey Talbot, an Environment Canada meteorologist. “They triggered the (tornado) watch when the storm itself was right around Irish Cove and that area. By the time it hit the Marion Bridge area it had tapered off.”

Despite the watch, Talbot said no tornadoes were confirmed to have happened on the island on Sunday.

“There was one report of wind damage that we did get and that was in Grand Mira South,” she said, noting the report was of damage to boats and a trailer at a summer residence. “It was definitely wind damage that they seemed to experience. Whether it was rotational wind or straight-line wind, we can’t confirm that.”

In addition to the tornado watch, a severe thunderstorm watch and then warning was in effect for much of Cape Breton late in the afternoon Sunday.

But it was the tornado watch that generated the most talk among Cape Bretoners, Sunday. It was only the second time a tornado advisory has been issued on the island in the last 10 years — the only other being on July 20, 2013 when a tornado warning was issued, also for Sydney Metro and Cape Breton County.

Talbot said that, generally speaking, tornado watches and warnings are rare across Nova Scotia. However, over the years there have been unconfirmed reports of funnel clouds over land or water, even when a tornado watch or warning is not in effect.

Talbot explained that a tornado watch is issued when very specific conditions are observed by meteorologists.

“The forecasters on the desk are monitoring Doppler radar and when they see the suggestion of rotation in those radar images during a thunderstorm, that’s when they will issue these tornado watches,” she said.

As part of its tornado watches and warnings, Environment Canada tells those in affected areas that it is a “dangerous and potentially life-threatening situation,” advising people to take cover immediately, if threatening weather approaches.