ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — A ferocious storm is pounding much of Newfoundland and Labrador with powerful winds, blowing snow and surging waves, in what Environment Canada said was the largest storm in the world as of Thursday afternoon.
"The shore is taking an awful beating," said Bonavista town clerk David Hiscock, who estimates a quarter of the town on Newfoundland's east coast is at sea level.
"Those people, they're not flooded, but they're the next thing to it."
Meteorologist Bob Robichaud said winds have been recorded as high as 143 kilometres an hour in Twillingate and waves are reaching heights of 15 metres.
"If it's not the strongest storm on the planet today, it's very close. It's certainly the biggest," Robichaud said.
Gander has been hit with 14 centimetres of snow and drivers should be wary of whiteout conditions on the island's west and south coasts.
Robichaud said the storm is moving away from Newfoundland and it may have already reached its peak intensity, but the weather effects will be felt for a few days.
Images and videos posted on social media show siding flying off buildings and debris from construction sites blowing across busy St. John's roads.
Large waves have been predicted all the way from White Bay in western Newfoundland to Cape Race, with the weather agency saying it could be worst at high tide and lead to flooding and damage to seaside infrastructure.
Schools across the province were closed for the morning or delayed their openings.
The storm has caused outages across Atlantic Canada; as of 11 a.m. about 10,000 Newfoundland Power customers were without service.
Michele Coughlan of Newfoundland Power said central Newfoundland has been hit the hardest. An essential power line for the Twillingate and Summerford areas has been down since Wednesday evening.
Crews hoping to restore power are struggling with the wind, whiteout conditions, poor roads and fallen trees.
The entire town of Bonavista lost power at 9 a.m., Hiscock said.
He said fences have blown down, and homes lost siding and had windows shattered in the extreme winds.
The state of the town's sea fences is the biggest concern, Hiscock said.
The fences were built to keep waves out, but as storms have become more extreme over the years, the structures have deteriorated and put the town's roads and other infrastructure at risk during extreme weather events.
Hiscock said he expected power to return by mid-afternoon.
A video posted by (at)LeeTremblett showed tall waves crashing against a Bonavista sea fence, and another from Wednesday night showing a boat nearly submerged in the waves.
In Nova Scotia, the system was also forecast to unleash winds of up to 90 km/h in Cape Breton and snowfall amounts of 15 centimetres in Colchester County.
P.E.I. was also expected to get strong northwesterly winds gusting up to 90 km/h, particularly over exposed areas of the coast.
Conditions were expected to gradually subside Thursday afternoon, but another system was forecast to bring rain and flurries to the region Friday.
Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press