Cheered by early progress on fixes to their washed-out roads, residents of Meat Cove watched the skies nervously Wednesday as meteorologists warned of more rain.
The small town in northern Cape Breton lost vehicle access to the outside world on the weekend after torrential rains sparked flooding that ripped out bridges, wrecked several buildings and washed away roads.
Construction has begun in several sites nearby and a few days of gentle summer weather helped the illusion that life was returning to normal. But hiking only 15 minutes up the flood-ravaged brook that runs through town reveals the threat still hanging over residents.
The banks of Meat Cove Brook were torn and undercut by the force of the torrent. Water is still flowing at several times the usual force and the riverbed is soft enough in places that more of it is ready to run down. And along the banks are 20-foot-high jumbles of tangled trees - some 18 inches in diameter - that will head downstream towards the town if dislodged.
"Holy sweet Jesus, everything's ready to come down," said seventh-generation Meat Cove resident Derrick MacLellan, who is running the emergency headquarters, as he saw the damage for the first time.
"The infrastructure they're replacing today, if we get another torrent of water it's gone."
Another storm with the ferocity of the weather that hit on the weekend is unlikely - but there is concern that, with the amount of loose debris around, it won't take much rain to cause more damage.
The town was also bracing for a power outage scheduled to begin Friday and expected to last two days. Power lines will be brought down to allow heavy road-building equipment to come closer to the town.
Crews were working Wednesday at the washouts farthest from Meat Cove. A supervisor said that they are building pads on which to rest a Bailey Bridge over the Salmon River and that they had been able to get equipment to the next site so they could work there at the same time. Both bridges are expected to be ready by the middle of next week.
But work has not yet started at a number of other impassable places on the approach to the community. And a crack in the road running through town is widening daily, worrying residents that another section will break away.
The prospect of more rain also is unnerving many.
"Our community is under severe danger with what we have here," Mr. MacLellan said, his voice becoming emotional as he discussed the risk. "If we have a good amount of rain this is going to cause a large amount of this debris to start shooting down the creek."
Residents say that they need emergency assistance to start clearing the debris. The work will help reduce the risk while providing jobs to the tourist-reliant town, which says the rest of the season is probably a write-off.
"Bills are coming due and need to be paid," said Hector Hines, who owns Hines Ocean Lodge and has had to cancel weeks of bookings.
"None of us are working right now. There's no income coming in right now. It'll make a hell of a difference to have 10-15 people working."