Western Newfoundland facing multi-day deluge as storm envelops Atlantic region

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A massive, slow-moving storm that lashed parts of the Maritimes with 100-kilometre-per-hour gusts and driving rain has enveloped southwestern Newfoundland, where residents are being warned that up to 300 millimetres of rain could inundate the area by Thursday night.

"This thing is really pumping moisture from the Caribbean all the way up to the northern part of Quebec and Labrador," Bob Robichaud, a senior Environment Canada meteorologist, said Tuesday.

"If (southwestern Newfoundland) gets amounts in the (250-300 millimetre) ballpark over a mountainous area, that water will get channelled down the mountain and you're almost guaranteed to have some sort of flooding or washout issues."

Environment Canada has issued a rainfall warning for the Port aux Basques area, saying up to 400 mm of rain could fall over higher terrain, with gusts up to 120 km/h. The town usually gets about 160 mm of rain, on average, during the entire month of November.

"Torrential downpours are expected (Tuesday) and Wednesday with extreme rainfall totals," the bulletin says. "The impacts from flooding, including washouts and debris on roadways, will be felt for days .... Those in low-lying areas or valleys should be prepared to move to higher terrain in advance of rapidly rising water."

Brian Button, the mayor of Port aux Basques, said he thought there was a misprint when he saw the latest forecast.

“Someone asked me today, what's the comparison between a winter storm and a water storm — and I’d take a winter storm any day,” said Button, whose town is at the southwestern tip of Newfoundland. “If water gets blocked up, it's going to go somewhere. It's going to leave a destruction path behind it.”

Port aux Basques, which is home to about 4,000 people, is surrounded by hilly terrain.

"If we do have some localized flooding, and we do have some washouts ... I'm sure we'll be inundated by phone calls,” Button said in an interview Tuesday. “But there's only so many we can get to with the amount of equipment and resources that we have.” He is urging residents, accustomed to rough storms, to take the latest warnings seriously.

Earlier on Tuesday, the storm knocked out power to more than 12,000 homes and businesses in Nova Scotia. By later afternoon, that number had been cut in half. There were some reports of minor road washouts but no real property damage. Sporadic outages were also reported in P.E.I.

At Halifax's Stanfield International Airport, a peak gust was recorded at 98 kilometres per hour early Tuesday, and gusts reached 107 km/h at the mouth of Halifax harbour around the same time.

Meanwhile, peak gusts exceeding 100 km/h were reported in central Nova Scotia, along the province's eastern shore and in Eskasoni, which is in central Cape Breton.

By late Tuesday afternoon, between 80 and 100 mm of rain had fallen over much of central and eastern Nova Scotia, including Halifax.

"We do expect more of this rainfall to continue over eastern Nova Scotia," said Robichaud. "I would expect that if there are going to be any impacts, it's going to be within the next 24 to 36 hours in that part of the province."

Antigonish, N.S., reported that localized flooding had forced the closure of a portion of its Main Street. "Residents are advised to please travel with extreme caution today," the town said in a message on Facebook.

Late Tuesday, Victoria County on Cape Breton Island declared a state of emergency.

"Residents are required to shelter in place until further notice," the county said on Twitter.

"Provincial Department of Public Works is currently assessing roads and bridges for safety. Crews are working hard, so please stay home, and let them do their job."

Environment Canada says a total of 100 to 150 millimetres of rain could fall across eastern Nova Scotia and Cape Breton by late Wednesday.

"Heavy downpours can cause flash floods and water pooling on roads," Environment Canada said in a weather warning issued Tuesday afternoon for eastern Nova Scotia. "Localized flooding in low-lying areas is possible. Avoid driving through water on roads. Even shallow, fast-moving water across a road can sweep a vehicle or a person away."

An assortment of rainfall and wind warnings were in effect for Prince Edward Island, most of Nova Scotia, western Newfoundland, Îles-de-la-Madeleine and Quebec's north shore.

"There's still more rain to come," Jason Mew, a spokesman for Nova Scotia's Emergency Management Office, said in an interview Tuesday. "But we haven't received any requests for assistance."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 23, 2021.

— By Michael MacDonald in Halifax and Sarah Smellie in St. John's

The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version said more than 120,000 customers were without power in Nova Scotia.

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