1. Missing people

On Monday, Nova Scotia RCMP sent out a press release saying the body of a 52-year-old Windsor man had been recovered. The man was one of four people who went missing on Friday after heavy rains caused flooding in West Hants.

The release also said that human remains were found during a search, and RCMP are working with the Nova Scotia Medical Examiner’s Office to identify the body.

Two children and one youth are still unaccounted for.

A pickup truck that was carrying the two children was found in a field on Sunday, but no one was inside.

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2. Tantallon homeowner facing issues with insurance company

A white man with short brown hair and wearing a bright blue jacket over a white t-shirt and black shorts stands in the driveway in front of a home with beige siding. The front door is blue and the garage door is white. Next to the home is a tree that has been burned by fire.
John Engram in front of his home in Highland Park. Credit: Contributed by John Engram

Last week, I met with John Engram, whose family is out of their Highland Park home in Tantallon after wildfires in late May.

Engram’s home is still standing, but the interior suffered extensive damage from smoke and water. Engram, his wife, and two teenage children are now living in a long-term rental in Bedford.

But Engram said it’s been a challenge dealing with his insurance company, Johnson Insurance, over the past several weeks. “The fire was 16 hours of terror. The aftermath since then… has been worse,” Engram said in an interview last week.

It’s a long story with lots of details, but the short of it is Engram has had to deal with three different adjusters since he made the first call to Johnson on Monday, May 29. He said all three “ghosted” him, and he’s still owed thousands of dollars from expense claims he’s sent in. So far, he’s received one cheque for $9,900 to cover his first expense claim, as well as an advance of $9,900, although Engram said he’s not sure what he’s permitted to use that money for. He said Johnson has also not paid the rent for the long-term rental in Bedford where his family is now staying.

Engram hired a public adjuster named Francis Martin to work on his behalf and help him through the process. Martin explained that Engram’s case is not unique and that many homeowners are experiencing similar issues largely due to “capacity” at the insurance companies — basically too few adjusters to handle too many claims — and protocols from the companies that adjusters have to follow.

Worse still, Martin said with the flooding on the weekend, clients who lost their homes in the wildfires may face even more delays as adjusters deal with other flood-related claims.

Engram told me he knows about many similar stories, but people are too fearful to speak out. He said even when and if his claims are resolved, he plans to continue speaking out.

Click here to read “Tantallon homeowner says insurance company not paying out claims, stopped communicating.”

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3. Flood insurance

A blue car hangs on a guard rail and into a river.
A car lodged on a guardrail and partially submerged in flood water along the Little Sackville River in Middle Sackville, on Saturday, July 22, 2023. Credit: Communications Nova Scotia

CBC Nova Scotia spoke with a couple in Scotch Village who are waiting to learn what their insurance company will cover, if anything, after their property was heavily damaged by floods on Saturday.

[Jessica] Hill and her husband, Allan, moved to the province from Ontario a year ago. They bought land next to the Herbert River in Scotch Village, Hants County, which they planned to use as a small-scale farm, yoga retreat and private campground.

The lightning started at around 12 a.m. AT on Saturday, Jessica Hill recalled.

“Every time the lightning flashes, we just see river and we just see water, no longer do we see our property,” she told CBC Radio’s Maritime Connection on Sunday.

Within hours, it was clear the gardens were submerged in water, as well as the deck that would soon house a yoga studio. Picnic tables, a kayak, a paddleboard and their yoga dome had been washed away.

The couple called their insurance company, but they don’t yet know what will be covered. They also started a crowdfunding campaign to help them rebuild their business and property.

CBC also spoke with Lori MacLeod-Doyle whose Lower Sackville home was flooded with 70 centimetres of water. She told CBC she called her insurance company and then the restoration company handling her file, but was told they had no record of the file.

“At that point, I kind of lost it and, you know, broke down a little bit,” she said.

Her insurance broker was able to sort that out, but she’s frustrated by conflicting messaging she’s getting, MacLeod-Doyle said.

“Here we are three days later, almost, and still no answers as to what I should be doing, what I shouldn’t be doing,” said MacLeod-Doyle. “I’ve been told to get rid of as much stuff out of the basement as possible by some people, and then other people have said don’t touch anything. I really don’t know what to do.”

Jennifer MacLeod, the president of the Insurance Brokers Association of Nova Scotia, told CBC there are four types of insurance coverage around flooding: sewer backup —  damage caused by sewers and drains backing up; overland flooding — freshwater entering a property; above groundwater — water coming in through the roof and walls or through leaks, and groundwater — water entering through a home’s foundation.

MacLeod added those coverages are modifications that exist beyond a basic insurance policy. And, as CBC notes, it’s not yet certain if the province will provide help to Nova Scotians whose homes were damaged by the floods.

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4. Floods damage Bedford sports field

A sign that says "Welcome to the Bud Bremner field, home of the BMSF" The sign is on two tall yellow posts that are partly submerged in water that has flooded the field. In the foreground are trees and in the background are the rooftops of apartment buildings.
A sign in the flooded Bedford sports field. Credit: Bedford Sackville Minor Football

Zack Power at Global has this story about volunteers who run a sports field in Bedford that was flooded by the rains on the weekend. Those volunteers are facing thousands of dollars in damage of the field and equipment that was stored in a shed, which was also flooded. The field is home to both local baseball, basketball, and football teams for kids. Power writes:

The baseball club relies heavily on player registration fees in order to cover the cost of maintenance and upkeep.

Due to the area being in a flood plain, they were told by their insurance company that having flood insurance would have cost the group a $50,000 deductible, which the organization couldn’t afford.

They’re trying to salvage what they can, which is a similar testament just next door at the Bedford Minor football club. Thousands of dollars in football helmets and gear are in the process of being salvaged from the flood.

“I took a call from Bud Bremmer, who started this program 54 years ago, who the field is named after. He had told me the water had gone up to the shed, which is quite a bit,” the president of the Bedford Minor Football organization, John Strowbridge, recalled.

Power writes that volunteers were at the field on Monday trying to salvage any equipment they could. The damage is estimated at $50,000 to $100,000, but apparently volunteers are optimistic everything will dry out and they can get back to organizing and playing.

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5. Habitat for Humanity now assisting higher-income earners get homes

At a row of houses under construction on a sunny day, workers grip a window from the inside as they lift it into place.
Workers install a window at a home under construction on Nadia Drive in Dartmouth on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022. Credit: Zane Woodford

Habitat for Humanity is now helping to build homes for Canadians with incomes over $100,000. Habitat for Humanity offered its first interest-free loan in Winkler, Manitoba in 1985, and has helped more than 4,000 Canadian families build their first home since then. The loans typically helped lower-income families, but now given the rising costs of housing, the organization is widening its client base. From Ketki Saxena at

In the past five years, the average house price in Canada has surged by 40%, necessitating a shift in Habitat’s client base to include higher-income households.

As reported by the Globe and Mail, Habitat is increasingly helping higher-income households secure mortgage loans, some of which earn around $100,000 annually. Julia Deans, president of Habitat Canada, explained that changes in the housing market have widened the pool of people struggling to afford houses to include those traditionally considered middle-income earners.

The average house price in Canada exceeds $760,000, with properties in Vancouver and Toronto valued at over $1 million. House prices in other parts of southern Ontario are also flirting with this level,  pricing a larger segment of the population out of the housing market.

Consequently, the income prerequisite for qualifying for Habitat’s no-interest loans has skyrocketed. The charity’s loan serves as a down payment for prospective homeowners, enabling them to qualify for a mortgage from a bank or credit union.

That the shift to a higher-income base is taking place in Toronto where home prices have risen 53% over the past five years to $1,171,300, Saxena writes:

The average household income needed to qualify for Habitat aid in Toronto was $85,352 last year, up from $53,508 in 2018. In 2022, the minimum income was set at $67,266 and the maximum at $102,609.60.

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The helpers in an emergency

A wooden plank sits over a ditch of running water along side a gravel road. A black pickup truck is closer to the roadside, just next to the plank. In the background are several people fixing holes in the gravel road. A fire vehicle is parked on the road, too.
Crews and neighbours help patch up a rural road after creating a wooden bridge over a ditch filled with water in Falls Lake. Credit: Suzanne Rent

On Saturday morning, a couple of friends and I found ourselves stuck at my friend’s cottage in Falls Lake. The night before, the rain, thunder, and lightning went on until the wee hours. I never heard or seen anything like it before. The rain — three months’ worth in just one evening — flooded Bedford, Sackville, and communities in West Hants where my friends and I were staying for an evening.

After all that rain, a brook that runs in front of the cottage was overflowing and washed out the culverts at the end of the driveway, leaving a ditch of water of several feet. There was no way to drive out. We also knew there was no safe way for anyone to come get us as many of the roads across West Hants were impassable or closed.

We walked through the woods to get out down the road, but eventually neighbours and volunteer firefighters built a short bridge with wooden planks over the ditch. Other neighbours offered to pick up anything we needed. Once we were set, those helpers headed off to fill in small sinkholes in the road, clean up debris, and help out folks down the road who were stuck, too. My friends and I had to stay another night, but we were safe, dry, and had lots of food. We got out the next day when my friend’s husband came to get us.

In that short time, people did what they do best: help others out. We didn’t know each other, and we may not see each other again, but in an emergency people showed up and gave others a hand. I remember some of the names: Chad, Nicole, Racquel. I want to send a thank-you to all of them.

Nova Scotians don’t need a slogan to help others. It’s what a lot of people just do. And while Nova Scotia has had its share of tragedies over the past few years, I think this is a universal experience. When people are in an emergency, others step in to help out, and we’re all better for it.

My friends and I being stuck at a cottage for another night was a minor issue, of course, but caused by a far larger emergency that’s wreaked havoc in Nova Scotia and elsewhere. I’m talking about climate change. And we need more doers to get things done.

Maybe it’s always been this way, but we’re too bogged down with the minutiae, wanting to get things exactly right, while ignoring the larger, more crucial picture. There seems to be layers of bureaucracy and approvals for everything. The words need to be exactly right or no one says them at all. And the images, especially on social media, need to be just right, too. Yet, the emergency is still there, wreaking its havoc, and people are arguing over details rather than just getting something, anything done.

I think about this often, who is doing the work in emergencies. I wrote about it after Hurricane Fiona torn through the province. At that time, I noticed it was the lowest-paid workers who were out behind the fast food counters, at the coffee shops and gas stations making sure everyone filled up their gas tanks and had their double-doubles. We don’t know their names, but these workers set aside whatever personal emergencies they had at home, got out, and helped others.

So, this is a thank you to everyone who is still working and helping out even as I write this Morning File. Your help is certainly appreciated.

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A text that says "please be advised that Bedford Highway and Dartmouth Road are now open. Residents should exercise caution when travelling and be aware of potential road hazards."
Credit: hfxALERTS

On Sunday night, I signed up for hfxALERTS, a notification system run by HRM that lets residents know about emergencies and operations around the municipality. You have to sign up for notifications via the website and you also have to download the Everbridge app on your smartphone. You’ll get notifications by text, phone, and email. The text above about Bedford Highway and Dartmouth Road was sent out late Monday afternoon. The phone message is a good option for those who don’t text.

You can choose what notifications you want to receive: non-public alerts, including registration updates and communications system testing; urgent public safety alerts that are weather related; and urgent public safety alerts that are threats, such as active crime scenes. I only signed up for the urgent alerts.

HRM launched hfxALERTS in 2019 to replace CityWatch. As Haley Ryan wrote in The Star, hfxALERT is modelled after a system used in Waterloo, ONT. Philadelphia, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Boston use the system, too.

Halifax Fire News has been critical of hfxALERTS on his Twitter account where he tweets out details of fire calls and emergencies, including last weekend’s floods.

These alerts were the first sent out by hfxALERTS on Saturday, almost 24 hours after the rain and flooding started.

A screenshot of three alerts: The first alert says "Hazard warning: HRP is asking residents to refrain from attempting to access blocked areas to hazardous locations." The second alert says "HRM flash flooding: residents are urged to shelter in place as roads are unsafe and impacted areas remain hazardous." A third alert says "Zone 2, Non-central overnight winter parking ban has been lifted. The Halifax Regional Municipality is advising residents that the overnight winter parking ban for Zone 2 has been lifted."
Credit: hfxALERTS

“This is more than 24 hours into the incident and after not using it at all during the Tantallon fires. What an absolute embarrassment that project has been,” Halifax Fire News wrote on his account.

You’ll also notice the last alert sent before those ones on Saturday was an alert about an overnight winter parking ban that was sent out in March.

And this alert from Halifax Regional Police was sent out Sunday afternoon.

A screenshot of a text that says "Halifax Regional Police (HRP) is asking residents to refrain for entering blocked areas as they remain hazardous and unsafe."
Credit: hfxALERTS

And yes, as Halifax Fire News noted, hfxALERT wasn’t used at all during the Tantallon wildfires.

Some commenters to Halifax Fire News said they signed up for hfxALERTS but didn’t get any of the alerts above.

It seems like a decent system, if it was used. The option for phone calls makes the system more accessible and the texts are sent with a noise that gets your attention, but won’t scare the bejesus out of you. But still, the system has to be used. Sometimes I get the feeling crisis communications means not communicating at all.

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Halifax and West Community Council – Special Meeting (Tuesday, 6pm, City Hall and online) — agenda


Public Drop-in Sessions – Case 23307 (Wednesday, 2pm, 7pm, BMO Centre, Bedford) — proposals for a “comprehensive mixed-use subdivision”

Heritage Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 3pm, online) — agenda


No meetings

On campus

No events

In the harbour


06:30: Pijlgracht, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 9 from Jacksonville, Florida
07:15: Zaandam, cruise ship with up to 1,718 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John, on a seven-day roundtrip cruise out of Boston
08:00: USCGC Hollyhock, buoy-laying vessel, sails from Tall Ships Quay for sea
16:30: Zaandam sails for Sydney
18:00: Katherine Lady, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for sea
22:00: Gotland, cargo ship, sails from Pier 27 for Vilagarcía, Spain

Cape Breton
06:30: Zuiderdam, cruise ship with up to 2,364 passengers, arrives at Sydney Marine Terminal from Bar Harbor, on a 17-day cruise from Boston to Rotterdam 
10:30: Silver Shalis, yacht owned by billionaire Larry Silverstein, the developer of the World Trade Center in New York, sails from St. Peter’s for Baddeck
16:00: Zuiderdam sails for Corner Brook


My cat was sick yesterday after eating something he shouldn’t have eaten. It happens to all of us.

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Suzanne Rent is a writer, editor, and researcher. You can follow her on Twitter @Suzanne_Rent and on Mastodon

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  1. I’m in Cape Breton and signed up to the Alertable app during the wildfires to keep tabs on my brother’s home and safety. I have to say the town of Yarmouth is using it very well. I hope more places adopt it.

  2. The crisis communications issue, and the issue with everything needing to be “perfect”, bogged down in minutia, and filtered through layer upon layer of bureaucracy are related. Alongside our antiquated regulations around privacy and government information. Everything is held close to the vest, nothing is released until a whole comms team has combed over the message. And yet it is still almost always uninformative.

    Going by some of the hfxalerts we did get you would have thought roads all over HRM were in danger of collapsing, including the peninsula which was barely effected.

  3. If it wasn’t for ordinary citizens posting photos and videos on Facebook and Twitter we wouldn’t know what was going on during any storm most of the time. Official communication is chronically late and lacking details and context.

  4. Thanks, Suzanne, for “The helpers in an emergency”. Much appreciated. Although I am currently in Switzerland, I love reading the news from back home and have followed the news from this past weekend in particular. Just a little shoutout and note of thanks that you see those who rarely get acknowledged for their deeds.

  5. I subscribed to hfxAlerts for a while, but it has never been useful. I think HRM should abandon it.

    For some reason, Nova Scotia can’t grasp how alert systems work.