Lyme disease is on the rise in Ontario — here’s how to protect yourself

Ontario public health officials are asking residents to watch out for ticks, the tiny arachnids that can spread Lyme disease. 

Dr. Curtis Russell, a biologist with Public Health Ontario, told CBC Radio’s Metro Morning that the agency is tracking a “steady increase” in the number of cases of Lyme disease.

“We’re also seeing an increase in the number of blacklegged ticks, which is the only tick that can transmit Lyme disease in Ontario,” Russell said on Friday.

Blacklegged tick

In Eastern Canada the only vector of Lyme disease is the blacklegged tick, also known as the deer tick. (AP Photo/Victoria Arocho, File)

Ticks are most commonly found in humid, brushy areas, Russell added. In Toronto, researchers have found high populations in a pocket of the Toronto Islands and along the Rouge Valley.

“They wouldn’t be in, say, a soccer field because the grass is too short and too dry,” Russell said.

How to protect yourself

Some ticks carry a bacteria that may cause Lyme disease if you are bitten.

Public Health Ontario offers these tips for protection:

  • Stay on the path: if you’re in an area where ticks may be found, stay where it’s dry and avoid long grass and bushes.
  • Cover up: wear light coloured clothing so you can spot ticks. Long sleeves and long pants. Tuck your shirt into your pants and your pants into your socks to make it harder for ticks to find your skin.
  • Repellent: use an insect repellant that contains DEET.
  • Check: after returning home check your body for ticks, paying special attention to your scalp, ankles, armpits, groin, navel and behind your ears and knees. Also check your pets.
  • Wash: take a shower or bath. Put your clothes in the dryer for at least 60 minutes to kill any ticks.

How to remove a tick

Ticks are able to lock into your skin when they bite. If you discover one on your body, use fine-tipped tweezers to carefully remove it without crushing the tick’s body.

High-speed rail between Toronto and London by 2025, premier says

[embedded content]

A high-speed rail corridor in southern Ontario is “exactly what our economy needs,” Premier Kathleen Wynne says.

Wynne officially announced plans for a high-speed rail line from Toronto to Windsor Friday morning, with stops in Kitchener-Waterloo and London, by 2025.

“This is an idea that has been around for a very long time,” Wynne said during the announcement in London. “We decided it was time to take a serious look at an idea that’s been around for decades.”

Wynne said seven million people live along the corridor between Toronto and Windsor and the current transportation options just aren’t good enough.

“This is where our economy thrives, is along that corridor,” she said. “It’s exactly what our economy needs.”

The project would use a combination of existing track and new rail lines dedicated to the high-speed train, officials told CBC News. It would include stops in Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo, London and Chatham, and connect to Toronto Pearson International Airport.

Wynne high speed rail announcement

Premier Kathleen Wynne announces plans for a high-speed rail corridor between Toronto and Windsor. Phase one, which would see stops in Kitchener-Waterloo and London, would be completed by 2025. (Radio-Canada)

High-speed rail a ‘game changer’

London Mayor Matt Brown praised the project, saying it will cut Toronto commute times in half for residents of his city. It’s estimated the train would take 73 minutes to get from London to Union Station in Toronto.

Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic, who has been joined by Toronto Mayor John Tory in touting an innovation corridor between the two cities, said he was excited for what high-speed rail will mean for Waterloo region.

“I think this kind of infrastructure announcement, quite frankly, is transformational for the region in terms of becoming a global, technology super-cluster,” he told CBC News.

“I think the province recognizes that, if we’re going to compete in a global economy, investing in this kind of infrastructure – long overdue in Canada – is an important part of where we need to go.”

Having a stop in Guelph “would unlock extraordinary opportunities for our local economy and quality of life,” Mayor Cam Guthrie said. And it would “revolutionize” the way residents travel to Toronto, London and Windsor.

Windsor commitment

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said he’s pleased to see the project moving forward with environmental assessments.

“I’ve been on high speed rail all around the world and it really is a game changer,” he said. “Knowing that we’d be able to link closer and more intimately with the economic centre of Ontario, the GTA and Kitchener-Waterloo, I think is very good news for the City of Windsor.”

But he also expressed concerns about being part of phase two of the project.

“[The] concern that I have on my mind is making sure that we’re not excluded, that they don’t just stop at London and say okay, we’re it, and that’s it and we’re going to wait for some other government in the future to do it. I think if they’re going to make the commitment to build it, it should be from Toronto to Windsor.”

Proposed map for high-speed rail in southern Ontario

This map shows a proposed high-speed rail network in southern Ontario. (Ministry of Transportation of Ontario)

Hollow election promise?

A number of NDP MPPs from London, Windsor, Essex, Niagara and Kitchener-Waterloo issued a joint statement Friday afternoon saying the promise of high-speed rail may just be “another hollow election promise.”

“Premier Wynne may make promises when it comes to our transportation infrastructure, but is always light on action,” the statement said.

“Although today’s announcement was actually a re-announcement, it could be a step in the right direction and we have high hopes for this environmental assessment, but people in our communities are wondering today whether this is just another hollow election promise.”

The MPPs said the province has promised all-day, two-way GO train service between both Niagara and Kitchener-Waterloo, but there’s been “no action.”

“Our communities are concerned that this is another case of the premier looking for votes for herself while ignoring the needs of the rest of us,” the statement said.

Phase one: $12 billion 

Transportation Minister Steve Del Duca said there will need to be environmental assessments for both the provincial and federal approvals and design work will be done at the same time. That could take up to four years to complete. Construction could begin in four to six years.

The price for phase one of the project – Toronto to London – could be between $4 billion and $12 billion, depending on different factors, Del Duca said, citing a report by Ontario’s high-speed rail special adviser David Collenette.

The trains will be 40 to 60 per cent faster than current journey times, but Del Duca said they still need to determine specifics like when trains will run and how much fares will cost.

The goal would be to have phase two, from London to Windsor, completed by 2031.

“We still have a lot of work to do,” he said.

Wynne said they plan to get to work “as quickly as we can.”

“We’ve got to move ahead on this,” she siad. “We’ve got to do it this time, folks. I’m committed to it.”

[embedded content]

Highway 13 snowstorm probe faults ‘serious organizational shortcomings’ at MTQ, SQ

The mass stranding of more than 300 people on Highway 13 near during a snowstorm in March was in large part the product of an inability by Quebec’s Ministry of Transport (MTQ) and provincial police to grasp the true scope of the unfolding crisis, a report into the situation says.

Released today, Florent Gagné, who was assigned by the Quebec government to lead an investigation into the events, blamed “serious organizational shortcomings” and communication issues at the Sûreté du Québec and MTQ, which were responsible for the highway.

“Their surveillance and alert systems didn’t work,” Gagné said in a news conference. “It wasn’t a lack of resources or having the right policies in place — they have it all.” 

Heavy snow and two disabled tractor trailers trapped motorists on the highway, some for up to 12 hours. It was 4:30 a.m. before Montreal firefighters arrived at the scene to help stranded motorists.

Florent Gagné

Quebec’s government appointed Florent Gagné, a former deputy transport minister and one-time head of the SQ, to lead an independent probe into the causes of the mass stranding on Highway 13. (CBC)

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard appointed Gagné, a former deputy transport minister and one-time head of the SQ, to lead an independent probe the next day.

Information gathering failure

Gagné attributed part of the problem to the inability of Montreal’s traffic control centre, an MTQ-run operations centre that monitors traffic in real-time across the Montreal region via a network of cameras, to get and process information about the mounting problem.

“Information didn’t circulate between the various players who are normally feeding the centre,” Gagné said.

“MTQ patrol vehicles couldn’t get around easily and couldn’t relay information back to the centre … same thing for Sûreté du Québec officers.”

Communication breakdown

A change in the SQ’s communications system prior to the storm also meant the MTQ didn’t have access to police radio communications at the time.

Montreal’s traffic control centre, known as the CIGC, also did not have managers or extra personnel in place that night, despite the forecasted storm.

“Operators at the centre were swamped that night with emergencies … and their attention wasn’t always on the screens around them,” Gagné said. “It meant they didn’t realize until late at night the true picture of what was happening.”

Que Winter Storm 20170315

Montrealers were digging out for days after the snowstorm. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Without managers to oversee the situation, the understanding of the extent of the situation was delayed and information wasn’t passed up through the chain of command until late in the evening.

“At a certain point in the evening, we were no longer dealing with just a snow-clearing operation or a traffic situation, but people needed to be rescued from their cars,” Gagné said.

“Managers at the centre would be the ones to initiate that switch, but there were no managers in place.”

The employee in charge of the centre’s operators notified management at 9:40 p.m. about the urgency of the situation on Highway 13, three hours after a problem was first reported along the snow-choked artery.

MTQ absent at key moment

The operator’s superior then sent an alert via text message to 12 people involved in emergency planning with the MTQ, but received only two replies.

Soon after, the same superior sent an alert to 40 people, including an associate deputy minister at the Transport Ministry.

“Faced with the fact no one was taking charge of the problem in a systematic way at the MTQ, the operators were left to their own devices,” he said.

QUEBEC QUESTIONS 20170314

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard apologized after hundreds were stranded on Highway 13. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

“Think about a hospital — you can’t ask the operator to solve a medical emergency.”

SQ didn’t register urgency of situation

The SQ faced similar organizational deficiencies, Gagné reported, including communications channels within the police force that didn’t work.

Calls coming into the SQ from the public indicated that the situation was becoming urgent, but that urgency was downplayed and it wasn’t deemed necessary that the senior officer in charge be alerted.

An SQ control centre that receives calls and is responsible for monitoring the area also dropped the ball, Gagné said.

The centre labeled the situation in such a way that automatic cellphone alerts to senior officers were not activated and the kind of resources such alerts could summon were not deployed.

“As a result, all the subsequent hundreds of calls throughout the night did not set off that kind of automatic alert,” Gagné said. 

In the end, the SQ senior officer in charge was only notified of the crisis around 3 a.m. — nine hours after the situation was first reported — and a rescue operation involving the Montreal fire department was finally initiated.

“It was late at that point — too late, in fact … it should have happened around 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. at the latest,” Gagné said.

Highway 13

Cars were stuck on Highway 13 south of Montreal after the powerful storm for 12 hours in many cases. (Simon Marc-Charron/Radio-Canada)

Recommendations

The report provided 28 recommendations for improvements, starting with a full review of the organization and functions of the MTQ-run CIGC in Montreal.

“It’s a jewel of the ministry, and we can’t just let it go,” Gagné said. “We have to ensure that the right personnel are there, the computers work … and they are able to collect information and distribute it.”  

The report also recommends that the structure of the MTQ’s alert systems be reviewed because while policies were in place, they weren’t used that night.

“You can have the best policies in place, but the people responsible for enacting have to be aware and understand — there’s work there that needs to be done on that human level,” said Gagné.

As for the SQ, the report recommends the creation of a centre responsible for surveillance and operations control attached to the force’s headquarters. The centre should also have direct links to the CIGC and the Ministry of Public Security.

In a communiqué Friday, the SQ said it has already established the surveillance centre and is in the process of conducting its own administrative inquiry into the events that night on Highway 13. 

Further disciplinary action may follow that inquiry, the force said.

Earn degree, get drafted by the CFL: All in a day’s work for Nigerian man

There are two reasons why May 7, 2017, was a day Kaetochuku (Kay) Okafor will never forget.

The 24-year-old from Nigeria walked across the stage to get his business administration degree from St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., and later in the day he was drafted by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League.

“It’s the biggest day of my life so far to be honest,” said Okafor.

“To graduate from university and get drafted was amazing. And to have my dad here for it was the best part of everything.”

From Nigeria to Antigonish to Hamilton

Okafor left his home in Enugu, Nigeria, six years ago at the age of 18.

OkaforUniform

Okafor tried his hand at basketball before discovering football. (Nick Pearce/St. FX Athletics)

He left behind his mother, father, three sisters and a brother. Spotting his father in the crowd at graduation was the first time Okafor had seen a member of his immediate family since 2011.

“I actually didn’t know if he was going to make it because his flight got cancelled the day before, so we had to get him on a flight to Fredericton instead of Halifax on the morning of my graduation,” said Okafor.

“My cousin actually drove to pick him up and I actually saw him just before I walked across the stage. I saw him taking a picture, it was great.”

Okafor decided to come to Canada at the urging of his cousin, who went to Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.

Cut from basketball team

Okafor’s first stop was at Holland College in Charlottetown where he was one of the first cuts from the basketball team. But it wasn’t long before he was coaxed onto the football field to try a sport that was completely foreign to him.

OkaforFamily

The Okafor siblings. (Submitted)

“I had never seen a sport where you had to wear a helmet and pads — it was very different,” said Okafor.

“I had to wrap my head around the game. It’s been a bit of a journey for sure.”

That journey led Okafor to his next stop in Antigonish where he suited up for the St. FX football team. Fast forward four years to today and the six-foot-four, 278-pound defensive lineman said he’s ready to crack the Hamilton Tiger-Cats lineup.

“Playing at St. FX, I had to step my game up, mostly mentally. I had to learn the concepts of the game and learn my position more,” he said.

Football captain

Okafor turned a lot of heads at the CFL combine this spring. That’s where pro prospects are put through a series of strength and conditioning tests. Okafor bench-pressed 225 pounds 30 times.

But there’s more to Okafor than brute strength.

OkaforWeights

Okafor is known for both his physical strength and strong mentoring skills. (Courtesy St. FX Athletics)

“He was the captain of our football team and he mentored a lot of young players on our team,” said Gary Waterman, head coach of the St. FX football team.

“That aspect was so important. Even though his physical play for us was great, the other elements he brought to the table was just as great for our program.”

Okafor will be leaving for Hamilton’s training camp next week.

He’s already planning a return trip to Nigeria following the CFL season in time for Christmas.

Living with lupus: what it’s like having an invisible illness

Lisa Walters looks like your average 28-year-old, but her days are filled with doctor’s appointments and discomfort.

After more than 10 years of misdiagnosis, Walters was diagnosed with lupus last year.

“Your immune system starts attacking healthy cells in your body, and so the version I have which is systemic means that it can attack anywhere in your body,” Walters said.

Lupus can affect your joints, skin, organs, spine or attack in other ways, according to Walters.

“I get joint pain and muscle weakness, I get migraines, I’ve had different skin issues, and lung inflammation was probably one of my worst symptoms,” Walters said.

Lisa Walters

Lisa Walters was diagnosed with lupus a year ago, after nearly a decade of wondering what was wrong. (Alyson Samson/CBC)

Along with severe fatigue, Walters has been off work dealing with her illness for over a year.  

“You pretty much have to take it one day at a time, you don’t know what the next day will be like.”

It’s hard to make a set schedule for any given day, but some things work out and some don’t for Walters.

“I luckily have a lot of friends who understand that I sometimes have to cancel last minute,” she said.

Diagnosis ‘was a relief’ of sorts

For Walters it was a long journey to diagnosis. Fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis were put forward as possibilities before it was narrowed down to lupus.

“Surprisingly, it was a relief,” Walters said.

‘A lot of the time people don’t believe that you’re as sick as you are.’ – Lisa Walters

“I’m sure nobody ever wants to hear, ‘Hey, you have lupus,’ but after almost 10 years of knowing my body, knowing something wasn’t right, and not being satisfied with what doctors were saying to me it felt really good.”

Walters has also been diagnosed with gastroparesis and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which, like lupus, are considered “invisible diseases.”

“It’s a term we use for illnesses or disabilities that you can’t just look at someone and see you have that, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not there and present in people’s lives,” Walters said.

The issue for a lot of people with invisible diseases is being accused of not actually being sick

“One thing that annoys people with invisible illnesses is when someone says ‘oh but you don’t look sick.’ Fine, but that has no correlation to how I feel,” Walters said.

Lisa Walters Lupus hand splint

After seeing an auto-immune physiotherapist Lisa Walters was fitted with hand splints to make her joint issues more comfortable. (Alyson Samson/CBC)

It’s difficult for persons with invisible illnesses to not have physical representation of their illness.

“A lot of the time people don’t believe that you’re as sick as you are,” Walters said.

Parking conundrum

Walters has a disabled parking pass, but only uses it when she’s having a visibly bad day.

“I normally only use it if I’m having such a bad day that I need my cane, because that’s a visible reminder,” Walters said.

“I shouldn’t have to do that. I shouldn’t feel that way because I know that even if I’m not using my cane I have a disability but I’m afraid of having that confrontation.”

Walters says she knows of others who have had notes left on their windshield for parking in disabled parking without a visible disability, but it has yet to happen to her.

The most important thing Walters would like people to consider is that young people can get sick.

“People think that if you’re below 60 then you can’t get sick … and I wish that we wouldn’t get dismissed so quickly.”

Tick-mageddon on Mantario Trail overwhelms experienced hikers

Silently they scurried. Up inside pant legs, down under shirt collars and behind ears.

The ticks kept coming, dozens and dozens of them, each driven by an unrelenting thirst for blood.

“Even now, I still touch my hair. I feel a little crawly thing on my skin — I’m still checking today. You still think they’re on you,” said Karis Penner, three days after a hike along the Mantario Trail with her husband and two friends.

Mantario trail

A group of four hikers say they removed about 400 ticks from their clothing and skin on a recent three-day trip along the Mantario Trail. (Karis Penner)

The onslaught of tiny creepers got worse and worse as the group travelled north on the rugged trail last weekend. The Mantario is a 60-kilometre backcountry path that winds alongside the Ontario border in Whiteshell Provincial Park.

They landed on 400 as a fair estimate for the approximate number of ticks they encountered, said Penner, an avid hiker and paddler from St-Pierre-Jolys, Man.

“The ones that were actually stuck to our skin was way less just because we were checking so much, but off our clothing — I mean, easily 400 off our clothing,” she said.

Every 10 or 15 minutes, when the group would stop for water or a snack, they’d get to work brushing off ticks from their clothes and gear.

Typically, she said, they’d find about 20 ticks on each break. The bugs especially liked hiding in the seams of convertible pants (pants that can turn into shorts by removing the lower section of the leg).

They joked about putting them all in a Ziploc bag but no one wanted to the job of holding it.

On all her backcoutry trips, Penner has never seen ticks that bad.

“We were just overwhelmed. We were taking them off as much as we could,” she said. “After we washed in the evening and put clean clothes on, still they were on us.”

Risk of Lyme disease low

While everyone got bites, Penner isn’t too concerned about the risk of Lyme disease, which can be transmitted to humans by ticks. She said they checked each other for tick bites at least once a day and caught them before they latched for too long.

Earlier this month, a Lyme diease awareness group warned that this could be a bad year for ticks.

The mild winter temperatures gave mice and other small animals a chance to flourish, boosting the number of meals for ticks to feast on.

Mantario

The Mantario Trail is a 60-kilometre hike along the Ontario border in Whiteshell Provincial Park. (Karis Penner)

However, while there are more blood-suckers creeping around, they may not necessarily be the species of tick that carries Lyme.

Based on the province’s surveillance program, the vast majority of ticks collected in Manitoba are the common wood tick, a bug that does not carry Lyme, anaplasmosis or babesiosis, or any other problem disease, the province said.

Wood ticks, also known as the American dog tick, can be difficult to tell apart from problem deer ticks or blacklegged ticks, which can carry Lyme disease.

For that reason, Manitoba’s medical officer of health for communicable disease control, Dr. Richard Rusk, recommends that anyone active outdoors check themselves at least once a day for ticks and remove them as quickly as possible.

“If you can catch that tick within a few hours of it being on you, even if it’s bitten you … it hasn’t had the opportunity to get that bacteria regurgitated out and back into you,” he said.

“There’s good science to show that that works.”

In Manitoba, people can submit a photo of a tick online for Rusk’s office to review and determine if it is a blacklegged tick.

‘They’re strong little guys’

If you end up feeling any potential Lyme symptoms, like a rash or flu symptoms, it’s a good idea to mention to your doctor whether you had any recent tick bites, said Rusk.

AFP_DE2Y7

Last year, 62 people in Manitoba reported contracting Lyme disease, an illness spread by ticks. (AFP/Getty Images)

​In 2016, there were 62 cases of reported Lyme disease in Manitoba. Of those, 22 were confirmed, 28 were probably cases and 12 are still under investigation, according to data from Manitoba Health. Other tick-borne illnesses include 17 cases of reported anaplasmosis and one case of babesiosis in 2016.

As for Penner, she’s still battling the ticks, days after the trip ended.

Even after doing laundry, she’s still finding the critters in her home — on piles of laundry and even in a cupboard. 

“They’re strong little guys. They’re hard to get rid of,” she said.

“You’ll check yourself and then you’ll look again 30 seconds later and there’s one on your stomach again. Like, I don’t understand where they come from.”

For May long weekend, she plans to do her camping in Ontario.

Marionettes as tall as houses march along Montreal streets during 375th birthday bash

Giant marionettes are taking over parts of Montreal starting this morning, with a larger-than-life street performance as part of the city’s 375th anniversary bash.

The two five-storey-high marionettes, made by a French company, are making their Montreal debut. They’ll wind their way through streets and along the river for three days. 

The performance began this morning in Montreal’s Jeanne-Mance Park with Little Girl-Giant waking up in front of hundreds of people.

Little Girl-Giant sleeping Jeanne-Mance Park

Little Girl-Giant was fast asleep with her dog in Jeanne-Mance park Friday morning. The marionettes will overnight in the Maison Radio-Canada parking lot over the next few days. (Melissa François/Radio-Canada)

Little Girl-Giant and Deep Sea Diver will also interact with onlookers as they explore the city and play out their story. Organizers also promise a few surprises along the way.

“They not only walk the city, they create scenes which allow them to tell their stories,” said Martin Bolduc, executive producer of Montreal’s 375th anniversary celebrations.

Deep Sea Diver Les Geants, The Giants

On Friday, the Deep Sea Diver will begin his march from the Montreal Science Centre around 4 p.m. (Pascal Victor ArtComPress/Royal de Luxe)

The marionettes, called The Giants, were created by Royal de Luxe.

They can move easily due to a mix of mechanics, hydraulics and people pulling strings. Each marionette requires a team of about 30 people to help them move their arms and legs as they stroll about.

At night, you see their chest moving, like they are breathing — that I must admit is a mechanical thing,” Bolduc says.

“But most of it is literally human beings making them move.”

Where they’ll wander

The marionettes will move at an average speed of 2.25 km/h through the Gay Village, Old Port and downtown Montreal.

After starting the day in Jeanne-Mance Park, Little Girl-Giant will head down de Maisonneuve Boulevard before travelling back east near Place d’Armes for a nap. She will then head to bed outside Gare Viger, the historic former railway station and hotel on Viger Street, around 6:20 p.m. ET.

The Deep Sea Diver will begin his march from the Montreal Science Centre around 4 p.m. and move through the Old Port until it goes to sleep at Radio-Canada around 6:15 p.m.

The marionettes will finally roam together on Sunday.

The event will wrap up Sunday evening with a parade and celebrations at CBC/Radio-Canada, where the Giants will sleep in the parking lot at the end of their routes.

Organizers also encourage people to walk, bike or take public transit to see the Giants since some streets will be closed to car traffic.

[embedded content]

Who speaks for Nunavut youth? In Cambridge Bay, these guys

A group of eight teens in Cambridge Bay is determined to give young people in their community a stronger voice.

Sasha Evetalegak - 13

Sasha Evetalegak, 13: ‘The youth want to see more activities, stay healthy and stay out of trouble, [like] stealing alcohol from their families.’ (Kate Kyle/CBC)

“The youth want to see more activities, stay healthy and stay out of trouble, [like] stealing alcohol from their families,” says 13-year-old Sasha Evetalegak.

She is part of the mayor’s new youth advisory council.

Carter Lear cambridge bay

Carter Lear, 13: ‘We’re being the voices of the youth, letting the mayor know what’s going on and she can make changes.’ (Kate Kyle/CBC)

Formed in January, following the hamlet’s declaration that 2017 be the ‘Year of the Youth,’ the group isn’t just symbolic.

Each member has been sworn into council. They get paid to attend regular council meetings, and manage their own agenda and finances.

Courtney Nakahok

Courtney Nakahok, 17, chair: ‘I always felt like I didn’t have a say in things in my community… But since I’ve been on the mayor’s youth advisory committee I’ve seen a lot of changes in myself and also in the community.’ (Kate Kyle/CBC)

“I always felt like I didn’t have a say in things in my community,” says Courtney Nakahok, 17, and the group’s chair.

“But since I’ve been on the mayor’s youth advisory committee I’ve seen a lot of changes in myself and also in the community.”

​Since the new year, the teens have carried out a youth needs assessment by surveying senior high school students.

kids play in Cambridge Bay

Youth in Cambridge Bay enjoy sports like hockey and basketball. The youth council is lobbying for a BMX park and a new baseball diamond to give young people more positive activities to keep busy. (Kate Kyle/CBC)

Sports, mental health issues and drug and alcohol addictions ranked among the top priorities for youth, especially since the youth centre has been closed for renovations.

The youth council is calling for a BMX park and a new baseball diamond to give young people more positive activities to keep busy. It’s also planning a Cambridge Bay hockey day for this month, and a school of rock this summer.

Plebiscite results cambridge bay

Beer and wine store plebiscite results: the youth council plans to share its research with council and territorial ministers. ‘If the parents spent less money on alcohol. The parents will have more money to buy food and clothes for their children,’ says 13-year-old Carter Lear. (Kate Kyle/CBC)

A mock plebiscite also found young people agree a beer and wine store is needed in their community to help manage binge drinking. The results mirror those from a real vote in the community May 1. The youth council plans to share its research with council and territorial ministers.

“If the parents spend less money on alcohol, the parents will have more money to buy food and clothes for their children,” says 13-year-old Carter Lear.

Randy Briand, Cambridge Bay youth

Former teacher Randy Briand listens in the background. The hamlet hired him to help the teens reach their goals. (Kate Kyle/CBC)

The hamlet hired a youth ambassador, former teacher Randy Briand, to help the teens reach their goals.

Other communities have been calling the hamlet to find out more about the group.

Bailey Evetalegak Cambridge Bay

Bailey Evetalegak, 15: ‘I’m excited to see their reactions of how we want to change this community for the youth.’ (Kate Kyle/CBC)

Bailey Evetalegak, 15, says she’s just getting started.

“I’m excited to see their reactions of how we want to change this community for the youth.”

Cambridge Bay

Cambridge Bay lies on the western side of the Northwest Passage. (Kate Kyle/CBC)

“We’re being the voices of the youth,” says Lear. “Letting the mayor know what’s going on and she can make changes.”

N.B. island cut off from mainland due to thunderstorm

More than 4,100 NB Power customers remained without power Friday evening after a violent thunderstorm ripped through the Acadian Peninsula the previous night.

At its peak, close to 7,000 NB Power customers in the province were without power. There are no reports of injuries or fatalities.

Heavy winds split power poles in half and tore large roofing tiles off a store in downtown Caraquet, one of the areas worst hit. Lamèque and Shippagan were also impacted by the storm. 

Tornado activity remains under investigation

Environment Canada investigators have not yet confirmed if some of the damage left behind by the thunderstorm was caused by “tornadic activity.” 

Claude Côté, a warning preparedness meteorologist in New Brunswick, told CBC News on Friday evening that investigators are waiting to see videos of potential tornadoes taken by residents of the peninsula before anything can be confirmed.

But he’s also not ruling out the possibility of tornadoes. Typically, tornadoes in Eastern Canada are between 10 and 100 metres wide, and affect an area of one to five kilometres, he said.

“So we are looking at a narrow path of destruction,” he said. “But last night, we saw damage over a wide geographical area.”

Côté said that points toward “line-winds,” a term used to define thunderstorm winds not associated with rotation.

“But nevertheless, there could have been some embedded tornadoes,” he said.

Weather stations on the peninsula recorded wind gusts at 80 to 90 km/h Thursday night, but “looking at the extent of damage, we realize that these winds were much stronger,” he added. Côté said wind gusts may have reached 190 km/h.

Bridge briefly reopened

The New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization [NBEMO] reported earlier Friday that a bridge between the town of Shippagan and Lamèque Island was closed after several electric poles fell onto it, leaving the island cut off from the mainland.

Island

A bridge between the town of Shippagan to Lamèque Island has been closed after several electric poles fell onto the bridge. (Google maps)

The bridge reopened to the public for a short time Friday evening, from 7 p.m. to 7:45 p.m., and residents were advised to limit their travel as necessary.

The organization plans to make a decision later on Friday if it can reopen the bridge. Until then, it will only remain accessible to emergency vehicles, EMO reported.

The island is located in the northern part of the province, and lost power during the storm. The Canadian Coast Guard also had to rescue a boat that was stranded in the water during the storm.

Intense storm caused poles to fall

Marc Belliveau, a spokesperson for NB Power, said residents on Lamèque Island will likely be the last to have their power restored.

Thunderstorm

Up to 20 power poles were knocked down during a severe thunderstorm in the Acadian Peninsula Thursday night. (Catherine Dumas/Radio-Canada)

Up to 20 power poles fell during the storm, 12 of them on the causeway between the island and Shippegan. Belliveau said the repair work is complex, as both transmission and distribution lines were damaged.

The poles were also attached to the cement on the bridge or in rocky ground on the causeway, which makes it more difficult to replace them, he said.

“So it’s not like just putting a drill in the ground and putting a hole in,” he said, adding it may take another day before residents on the island get their power back.

“It looks like they might have power tomorrow evening at about 9 p.m., that’s how big the job is,” he said.

​Belliveau added that Thursday night’s storm caused less damage than the January ice storm that hit the area earlier this year. That storm down about 600 poles, he said.

But NB Power since committed to reviewing its infrastructure on coastal areas to see how it can make poles more robust, he said.

“As many people will tell you, these kinds of events unfortunately will happen more frequently,” he said.

Estimated restoration times will be posted on the NB Power website as they become available.

Residents are advised to stay clear of downed lines, trees and equipment for safety reasons. Residents are also asked to drive slowly in affected areas and watch for crews working to restore power near the roads.

Using generators with caution

NBEMO reminds New Brunswickers to use generators with caution.

Never run generators or cook with an open flame inside a home or garage, as these activities create carbon monoxide, which is extremely dangerous. Testing batteries in carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors is recommended.

If power is out, turn down heat sources and unplug major appliances in advance of power restoration to avoid a surge in demand that has the potential to cause more outages.

NBEMO said it will continue to  monitor the region and prepare to co-ordinate emergency response as necessary.

Island of Lamèque cut off from mainland following thunderstorm in Acadian Peninsula

More than 4,400 NB Power customers are still without power this morning after a violent thunderstorm ripped through the Acadian Peninsula on Thursday night.

At its peak, close to 7,000 NB Power customers in the province were without power. 

Heavy winds split power poles in half and tore large roofing tiles off a store in downtown Caraquet, one of the areas worst hit. Lamèque and Shippagan were also impacted by the storm. 

Environment Canada investigators are in northern New Brunswick today, looking at the damage left behind by the  thunderstorm and at videos of what could be “tornadic activity.”

Claude Côté, a warning preparedness meteorologist in New Brunswick, said Friday morning there are unconfirmed reports of tornadoes and according to specialists in Ontario, wind gusts may have reached 190 km/h.

“So this is comparable to hurricane force winds or also of a … tornado,” he said.

Robert Duguay, spokesperson with New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization [NBEMO], said a bridge between the town of Shippagan to Lamèque Island has been closed after several electric poles fell onto the bridge. He said the Canadian Coast Guard also had to rescue a boat that was stranded in the water during the storm.

Island

A bridge between the town of Shippagan to Lamèque Island has been closed after several electric poles fell onto the bridge. (Google maps)

Duguay said Lamèque, located in the northern part of the province, is currently cut off from the mainland and will be without power for the next several hours.

Repair work to be complex

“We’re talking about electric poles that are located in very awkward situations, very difficult locations on the bridge, so that could require more time,” he said. “That bridge is directly to the wind and got hit very hard.”

The bridge will remain closed to traffic and pedestrians. The only access will be for emergency vehicles. The bridge is expected to open again by Saturday morning.

Duguay said the repair work will be complex, as both transmission and distribution lines have been damaged. 

“All the poles fell down and fell directly in the middle of the road, which made the road very dangerous last night,” he said.   

Duguay said Thursday night’s storm was a replica of the January ice storm that hit the area earlier this year, but the impact is limited to a small area and the storm was brief.

“The situation is now stable,” he said. “It was a very quick … major storm that hit very hard on the Acadian Peninsula.” 

He said there have been no reports of injuries or fatalities and that NBEMO has activated its Regional Operation Emergency Centre within the Peninsula.

‘It was a very sudden and intense thunder and lightning storm.’ – Marie Andrée Bolduc, NB Power

Air patrol will also be used Friday morning to help with damage assessment, as crews work to restore power and replace poles and equipment as necessary.

Marie Andrée Bolduc, spokesperson for NB Power, said up to 20 poles fell following Thursday night’s thunderstorm.

“It was a very sudden and intense thunder and lightning storm,” said Bolduc.

She said NB Power will assess what needs to be done in the area on Friday morning and that additional crews from across the province will be helping restore power lines, as well as providing replacement equipment, such as more poles.

Dans la péninsule acadienne, la tempête de jeudi soir a surpris les gens par sa rapidité et son intensité. Suivez nos journalistes François Vigneault, Michèle Brideau et Catherine Dumas : rc.ca/PBFDdL

Posted by ICI Acadie on Friday, May 19, 2017

“All hands are on deck, but the assessment and repairs will continue throughout the day,” she said. 

Estimated restoration times will be posted on the NB Power website as they become available.

Residents are advised to stay clear of downed lines, trees and equipment for safety reasons. Residents are also asked to drive slowly in affected areas and watch for crews working to restore power near the roads.

Using generators with caution

NBEMO reminds New Brunswickers to use generators with caution. Never run generators or cook with an open flame inside a home or garage, as these activities create carbon monoxide, which is extremely dangerous. Testing batteries in carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors is recommended.

If power is out, turn down heat sources and unplug major appliances in advance of power restoration to avoid a surge in demand that has the potential to cause more outages.

NBEMO said it will continue to  monitor the region and prepare to co-ordinate emergency response as necessary.