Hurricane Larry wallops eastern Newfoundland with strong winds, storm surge

·6 min read
Hurricane Larry wallops eastern Newfoundland with strong winds, storm surge
Mary Queen of Peace Elementary School on Torbay Road in St. John's suffered significant damage to its roof Saturday morning. (John Gushue/CBC - image credit)
Mary Queen of Peace Elementary School on Torbay Road in St. John's suffered significant damage to its roof Saturday morning. (John Gushue/CBC - image credit)

Hurricane Larry hit eastern Newfoundland overnight as a Category 1 storm, knocking out power throughout St. John's and the surrounding area in a short, sharp wallop of heavy winds, torrential rains and an unexpectedly high storm surge.

Hurricane warnings that had been in place for the Avalon Peninsula were ended at about 5 a.m. NT, though wind warnings were still in effect for some areas, including the capital.

As of 3:14 NT, the storm had maximum sustained winds of 120 km/h, with gusts surpassing 180km/h in exposed and elevated areas. Cape St. Mary's lighthouse reported a peak gust of 182 km/h on Friday evening.

"That is a huge, huge wind gust," CBC meteorologist Ryan Snoddon said Saturday morning.

About 60,000 customers lost their power in the midst of the storm. By 2:30 p.m. Saturday, about 24,000 customers were still without power, according to Newfoundland Power.

The utility will have its full workforce out repairing damage on Saturday, and people are advised to remain in their homes so crews can easily access damaged areas.

John Gushue/CBC
John Gushue/CBC

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary and the City of St. John's are asking the public to remain off the roads to minimize any risk to public safety due to downed power lines and debris.

After following the police advisory throughout the day, Metrobus Transit announced it will resume operations at 4 p.m. NT. CBC News has contacted the City of St. John's asking if the change also applies to personal vehicles.

Further updates related to Hurricane Larry will be announced as required.

Advance poll voting in the federal districts of Avalon, St. John's East and St. John's South-Mount Pearl scheduled for Saturday was cancelled due to the hurricane, according to Elections Canada.

Winds gradually tapered off on Saturday, easing throughout the afternoon to gusts of 60 to 70 km/h with a mix of sun and cloud after speeds of between 70 and 80 km/h for the morning across the east and northeast portions of the island, Snoddon said.

Winds will continue to ease Saturday evening and overnight, he said, adding that the forecast improves for Sunday.

Tackling major road hazards

"The priority for city crews at this time is to address streets and major road hazards," the City of St. John's said in a statement.

Mayor Danny Breen, who addressed reporters at 11 a.m. Saturday, said the hurricane caused a "significant amount" of damage around the city. City crews have been addressing priority areas, including damaged traffic signals and roads that have been reduced to one lane due to debris, he said.

"We're asking residents to avoid travel unless for essential reasons," Breen said. "Please give our staff some room so we can get the work completed to get us back to having a safe passage throughout the city."

Newfoundland and Labrador's Department of Transportation and Infrastructure is asking motorists to avoid the area of Route 90 near St. Vincent's. A stretch of that road was damaged overnight and remains washed out Saturday morning.

Transportation Minister Elvis Loveless told CBC News that he has been in contact with Premier Andrew Furey throughout Saturday, getting updates from various areas of the province.

WATCH: People on Newfoundland's east coast assess damage from Hurricane Larry:

Loveless said the department has been monitoring culverts and bridges, and assessing closed roads.

"Our engineers and crews began their shift work at 5 a.m. this morning. They're on it, and I'm getting updates as we go by," he said.

Loveless said crews are currently addressing Route 90, an area near North Harbour, Salmonier Line and keeping a close eye on provincial highways, but he could not give a timeline for when repairs will be completed.

"We're going to be working diligently over the next several days, but from the reports that I have to date, it's nothing that can't be tackled within a week," Loveless said.

Submitted by Sherry Gambin-Walsh
Submitted by Sherry Gambin-Walsh

Placentia-St. Mary's MHA Sherry Gambin-Walsh, who lives in North Harbour, said the wind from the storm was about the strongest she's ever experienced.

"The pavement is completely removed from a portion of the road. The ocean comes up to the side of the road, so we're a little bit concerned about the underneath there," she said.

"In the past we've had heavier rain ... but this is the highest sea damage I've seen. I'm living in North Harbour now 27 years."

Argentia waters 1.5 metres higher than normal

The latest tropical cyclone information statement from Environment Canada said a "notable" storm surge event occurred near the Burin Peninsula and Avalon Peninsula.

The tide gauge at Argentia showed a peak water level about 150 centimetres higher than normal, the update said.

Ryan Snoddon/CBC
Ryan Snoddon/CBC

In Marystown, Fire Chief Justin Bolt told CBC News that two homes were evacuated for a short period of time during the height of the storm due to concerns over the storm surge and high tides. Bolt said everyone is safe.

Rain was short-lived but intense, with about 30 millimetres falling "in a very short period of time."

The statement said Larry made landfall at 1:30 a.m. NT just west of Long Harbour, N.L., on the Avalon Peninsula.

Visible damage

Just before 3 a.m., reports on social media showed that the performance tent near Quidi Vidi Lake in place for the Iceberg Alley concert festival had suffered extensive damage.

Iceberg Alley cancelled its planned April Wine concert on Friday evening due to the storm.

Shortly before noon, the group said Saturday night's performance of Alan Doyle, Matt Mays and The Fine Lads has been cancelled.

"Refund information will be available in the coming days," the group said in a statement. "Crews are currently accessing the extent of damages. The future of additional performance is to be determined."

Jeremy Eaton/CBC
Jeremy Eaton/CBC

Nearby, at Torbay Estates apartment building in St. John's, the hurricane caused significant damage to the building's exterior.

The building's superintendent, John Brown, told CBC News that bricks fell off of an exterior wall at about 1:30 a.m., smashing on top of two vehicles and landing in a pile.

"We had wind storms in the past, and it's usually siding [damage], never brick," Brown said.

Two schools on the Avalon peninsula also faced roof damage overnight: Mary Queen of Peace Elementary in St. John's and Stella Maris Academy in Trepassey.

In a statement to CBC News Saturday afternoon, the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District said staff are on site assessing the damage and an update regarding Monday's classes will be made on Sunday.

In Bay Roberts, Mayor Philip Wood told CBC News that the biggest damage the town suffered was to its softball field. Wood said the field's dugouts were "completely annihilated."

Wood is asking the public to stay away from the field until it's cleared by town staff.

"To clean up around our roads and that, it will certainly take a number of days," he said.

"[It was] a nasty old night."

Philip Wood/Twitter
Philip Wood/Twitter

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