Leslie moves on after slamming Newfoundland

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iol news pic Tropical Weather~1 AP A resident watches the water as dykes on the Salmon River gave way in Truro, Nova Scotia on Monday, Sept. 10, 2012. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Andrew Vaughan)

Fortune, Newfoundland - Post-tropical storm Leslie moved out to sea Tuesday afternoon, hours after its stiff winds and heavy rains pummeled Newfoundland, knocking out power to thousands and forcing the cancellation of all flights at the island's main airport.

Jean-Marc Couturier, a forecaster with the Canadian Hurricane Centre, said Leslie passed through Cape Bonavista in northeastern Newfoundland early Tuesday afternoon, and headed out to the Atlantic as a post-tropical storm.

Couturier said the winds are receding, but he said strong northwesterly winds are still gusting in excess of 62 mph (100 kph) along the province's eastern and northeastern coasts.

“It still remains a large system, but no longer has any tropical characteristics, it is now more like a mid-latitude storm as it moves offshore,” said Couturier. “But it will continue to affect marine areas and the marine communities throughout the night particularly with Canadian waters.”

Several towns along eastern Newfoundland had already lost power and flights were cancelled before the storm made landfall Tuesday.

Tree branches blocked several roads and there were multiple reports of roofs being blown off. Power was knocked out throughout St. John's and communities along the southeastern coast of the Avalon peninsula, and all flights at the airport were cancelled.

Leslie was not as ferocious as Hurricane Igor, which caused about CA$125 million (US$128.5 million) in damages and left some parts of Newfoundland without power for several days in 2010, the Halifax-based hurricane center said.

“More rain was spread out over the island, but the severity of the storm certainly was thankfully not as strong as Igor,” said Couturier.

The storm made landfall Tuesday morning, touching down in Fortune, Newfoundland, at about 8:30 a.m. AST (7:30 a.m. EST, 1130

GMT) and barreled north at about 40 mph (65 kph) before moving offshore, the Canadian Hurricane Centre said. The center initially said Leslie was a tropical storm when it made landfall, but later said it was a post-tropical storm.

The storm had buffeted areas around St. John's, Newfoundland's capital, with winds that gusted up to 81 mph (131 kph), causing damage to roofs, trees, roads, Environment Canada meteorologist Bob Robichaud said. Waves were reaching 10 meters (yards) at an offshore buoy.

“There are very strong winds to the right hand side of the track,” he said. “We've seen some fairly heavy, intense rainfall as the storm was approaching and one of the things we're looking closely at are the winds.”

Bands of rain have been extending out ahead of Leslie, dousing some areas on the Burin and Avalon peninsulas with sheets of rain.

Environment Canada had initially issued weather alerts for the entire island of Newfoundland, with tropical storm warnings and hurricane watches in the south and east.

Leslie was also expected to drench parts of Prince Edward Isle and Nova Scotia, where rain warnings were also issued.

Extensive power outages forced St. John's to close all municipal buildings except City Hall. Schools were also shut down.

Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro spokeswoman Alex Collins said the utility experienced one transmission outage.

Some residents faced the blustery weather to take pictures of trees uprooted in Bannerman Park.

“It's pretty intense,” said Holly Walsh, who was out storm chasing after classes for her therapeutic recreation course were cancelled. “I've never seen this before.”

Walsh said the force of the wind blew her down at nearby Cape Spear, the most easterly point of North America, as it ripped the doors off three cars.

In the central Newfoundland town of Badger, officials declared a state of emergency and kept close watch on a 78-foot-(24-meter-) high water tower that was condemned three weeks ago.

“If we get the high winds, the engineers have advised us that it could topple,” said Mayor Michael Patey.

People from 23 homes near the tower were evacuated.

Striking airport workers who briefly picketed outside braved powerful wind gusts that picked up a port-a-potty tied down by a rope.

Inside the airport, stranded passengers gazed up at electronic boards red with cancellations before the power cut out and they went black.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police tweeted a photo of a truck blown over onto its side on the Trans-Canada Highway, west of St. John's.

Red Cross spokesman Dan Bedell said supplies and additional people have been taken to the Burin Peninsula, on the south coast of the island, where Igor pounded Newfoundland as a Category 1 hurricane almost two years ago. Igor dumped eight inches (20 centimeters) of rain. The hurricane was also blamed for one death.

Evacuation orders were issued Monday for Truro, Nova Scotia, where sheets of heavy rain caused two rivers to spill their banks as several dikes gave way, leading to flooding in Colchester County.

Also in the Atlantic, Michael weakened to a tropical storm early Tuesday with maximum sustained winds near 65 mph (100 kph). Additional weakening was expected and the storm was expected to fizzle out in about a day. The storm was not a threat to land. - Sapa-AP


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