Newfoundland braces for Leslie

Louis Power
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By Sue Bailey

THE CANADIAN PRESS—ST. JOHN’S

Newfoundlanders who were hit hard by hurricane Igor two years ago were hunkering down for tropical storm Leslie.

Leslie isn’t expected to be quite as ferocious as Igor, but will almost certainly churn ashore early Tuesday with its centre near the Burin Peninsula in southeast Newfoundland, said the Canadian Hurricane Centre in Halifax.

“However the storm’s effects will be far-reaching with impacts spreading well away from the storm’s track,” the centre said in a bulletin issued at 9 p.m. AT.

Forecasters say Leslie will touch down as a hurricane or a strong tropical storm, depending on its wind speed.

“Whether tropical or post-tropical at landfall, it will still hit with a wallop, especially on the east side of the storm,” the bulletin said.

Tropical storm warnings and hurricane watches were in effect for parts of southern and eastern Newfoundland.

The storm’s winds were clocked at 111 kilometres per hour as it headed toward the island at 55 kilometre per hour. Southerly winds gusting to 120 km/h were forecast for much of eastern Newfoundland with the hurricane centre warning of damage caused by toppled trees, flooded streets and downed power lines.

The centre said Leslie would combine with a low pressure system to generate additional heavy rainfall — up to 150 millimetres in some areas.

Patricia Devine of Clarenville in southeastern Newfoundland was keeping a wary eye on the weather after Igor caused more than $25,000 in flood damage to her home on Sept. 21, 2010.

“All over this town trees were down, an awful lot of people got flooded basements. Oh, it was awful,” she recalled Monday.

Igor also killed one man on nearby Random Island as a surge of water swept out the road beneath him.

“I’ll never forget it,” Devine said. “In fact, I’m very nervous. I’m saying a lot of prayers.”

She was among many residents who spent the day buying food, water and gasoline, checking sump pumps, preparing generators and making sure they had flashlights, batteries and emergency contact numbers at hand.

On the Port au Port Peninsula on the west coast, about 40 millimetres of fast-falling rain Monday swelled streams that flow down hills along its southern coast.

Water swamped parts of Route 460, the main highway, as provincial transportation officials advised that the peninsula was inaccessible with no alternate route. Local Cape St. George Mayor Peter Fenwick was worried Monday afternoon that Leslie will unleash a lot more rain, as forecast.

“If that happens, I think it will be a real problem in terms of a number of spots,” he said of culverts that may be too small for so much runoff.

“When I drove over it, I counted at least three or four different spots where the water could break through the road.”

Forecaster Bob Robichaud of the Canadian Hurricane Centre said the biggest concern was Leslie’s sheer size. The storm’s circulation was 800 kilometres in diameter.

“To the east of the track, which would be over the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland, we could see gusts over 100 kilometres an hour,” Robichaud said from Halifax.

The centre said eight-metre waves were expected along Newfoundland’s southeast coast, particularly Placentia Bay.

Robichaud said Leslie was gaining strength as it moved over warm waters north of Bermuda, but its massive size may prevent it from reaching hurricane status.

“If it was a smaller storm, there would most definitely be strengthening and we’d almost certainly have a hurricane at landfall,” he said. “But given the size of the storm, it takes a lot more to spin it up.”

The nasty weather hit Atlantic Canada long before Leslie’s anticipated arrival. Heavy rain swamped the North and Salmon rivers near Truro, N.S., on Monday, leading to flooding and evacuations in Colchester County. Several people voluntarily left their homes as a result of the flooding.

The hurricane centre said a trough of low pressure had already dumped 100 millimetres of rain on parts of western and central Nova Scotia by Monday morning, with more yet to come as Leslie approached.

Marine Atlantic cancelled ferry crossings between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland for Monday and Tuesday because of the weather warnings.

Newfoundland’s Municipal Affairs Minister Kevin O’Brien, who is responsible for emergency services, urged residents to remove patio furniture and any potential projectiles. He said in an interview that 95 per cent of municipalities and regions in the province now have emergency preparedness plans.

“Don’t panic,” he advised residents. “Just make sure that you have a look at your properties. Mention it to your friends and neighbours that they should do the same. Have those emergency numbers at hand.”

O’Brien said the Progressive Conservative government has spent $500 million on infrastructure improvements since 2008 and learned lessons from Igor. He said emergency supplies of pre-fabricated truss bridges known as Bailey bridges are now kept on the east side of the island and not just at a western depot as was the case before Igor.Such changes were made after Igor washed out access to 90 communities with 22 declaring states of emergency.

Igor caused about $125 million in damages and some parts of the province were without power for several days.

Organizations: Canadian Hurricane Centre, Marine Atlantic

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Halifax, Random Island Port au Port Peninsula Nova Scotia Placentia Bay Bermuda Atlantic Canada Truro Colchester County

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