Newfoundland braces for Tropical Storm Leslie

Associated Press
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This NOAA satellite image taken Monday, September 10, 2012 at 10:45 AM EDT shows Tropical Storm Leslie as it moves northward towards Newfoundland. Leslie is expected to weaken as it brushes the eastern Canadian providence. Smaller sized Hurricane Michel is also weakening as it moves westward. Michael is still a Category 1 storm with winds of 80 mph but is expected to become a Tropical Storm overnight.(AP PHOTO/WEATHER UNDERGROUND)

ST. JOHN'S, Newfoundland (AP) — Canadian officials warned of possible flooding and power outages as Tropical Storm Leslie barreled toward Newfoundland, where it was expected to make landfall Tuesday morning.

The Canadian Hurricane Centre was predicting at least 12 hours of intense rain over the northeastern province's hilly terrain, which could generate rapid runoffs, said the agency's program supervisor Chris Fogarty. The center was warning of possible damage from toppled trees, flooded streets and downed power lines. Several towns along eastern Newfoundland had already lost power by Tuesday morning and some flights were cancelled.

At 5 a.m. AST (6 a.m. EST, 1100 GMT), the storm was about 170 miles (275 kilometers) west-southwest of Cape Race, Newfoundland, and had maximum sustained winds of 70 mph (110 kph), the center said. The system is heading north-northeast at about 40 mph (65 kph).

Forecaster Bob Robichaud said Leslie was gaining strength as it moved over warm waters, but its massive size may prevent it from reaching hurricane status. Storm watches were in effect for most of Newfoundland.

"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 Halifax-based Canadian Hurricane Centre said Leslie was not expected to be quite 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.

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.

Nasty weather had already battered Atlantic Canada before Leslie's arrival. The center said a trough of low pressure had already dumped heavy rain on parts of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

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.

The center said Leslie would combine with a low pressure system to generate additional heavy rainfall — up to six inches (15 centimeters) in some areas, adding that 26-foot (8-meter) waves were expected along Newfoundland's southeast coast, particularly Placentia Bay.

On the Port au Port Peninsula, which hangs off Newfoundland's west coast, about 1.6 inches (4 centimeters) of fast-falling rain Monday swelled streams that flow down hills along its southern coast. Water swamped parts of the main highway as provincial transportation officials advised that the peninsula was inaccessible with no alternate route.

Fire and Emergency Services worked Monday to shore up resources to ensure crews are ready to deal with the storm. Crews were trying to make sure that culverts and ditches were cleared to facilitate rapid runoffs, said Newfoundland Fire and Emergency Services spokeswoman Cheryl Gullage.

"We've warned people to stay away from fast moving bodies of water," Gullage said. "We've taken preparedness measures within our control to mitigate large damages but we have no idea how this will impact until it actually hits." She added that authorities are prepared to move people to shelters if necessary.

Patricia Devine, of Clarenville in southeastern Newfoundland, nervously hunkered down just two years after Igor caused more than CA$25,000 (US$25,600) in flood damage to her home.

"All over this town trees were down, an awful lot of people got flooded basements. Oh, it was awful," she said. "In fact, I'm very nervous. I'm saying a lot of prayers."

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

Marine Atlantic said it was canceling ferries between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.

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.


Associated Press writer Charmaine Noronha in Toronto contributed to this report.