Leslie leaves turbulent wake in Newfoundland

Post-tropical storm Leslie headed out to sea Tuesday afternoon, leaving behind a path of destruction that included toppled trees, torn power lines and roofs ripped apart from buildings.

Even as cleanup crews set to work, many officials breathed a sigh of relief that Leslie did not pack the wallop of Hurricane Igor, which blew apart bridges and washed out highways just two years ago.

Leslie, though, had winds as high as 137 km/h. The storm helped take out power in much of the Avalon Peninsula, including the St. John's area, with more than 20,000 houses and businesses remaining without power into Tuesday afternoon.

With a diameter of about 800 kilometres, Leslie packed a punch across much of Newfoundland, although the heaviest wind damage was recorded in eastern coastal communities.

Utility poles snapped, boats were damaged and numerous construction sites were damaged, including a partially-built home north of St. John's that imploded during the height of the storm.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary urged drivers in the St. John's area to stay off the roads, adding that crews needed time to clear numerous hazards, such as downed power lines and broken trees. Power outages had also knocked out numerous traffic lights, including on some of the city's busiest thoroughfares.

Clarenville Mayor Fred Best said he was relieved that the overwhelming damage of two years ago was not repeated.

"People were anticipating another Igor," said Best.

"[But] up to now, there's no semblance of the problems that we had from Igor."

Heavy rains began lashing southern Newfoundland before dawn Tuesday as winds picked up strength, with the storm making landfall around 9 a.m. NT on the island's Burin Peninsula.

Leslie passed through Cape Bonavista in northeastern Newfoundland around 12:30 p.m. NT, and headed out to the Atlantic as a post-tropical storm. However, very strong winds were expected to follow in its wake, and had already caused considerable damage.

By late Tuesday morning, many communities were covered by largely blue skies, although St. John's Mayor Dennis O'Keefe said those skies belied what was underneath.

"Looking out my office window ... it doesn't look too bad," said O'Keefe. "But the wind is pretty ferocious. Here in St. John's, wind has been the issue, not the water."

Schools, government offices and numerous public services closed for at least the morning across the island, and the central Newfoundland town of Badger declared a state of emergency as a precaution. Marine Atlantic cancelled ferry crossings to Nova Scotia, while some domestic ferries also tied up to weather out the storm.

Canada Post warned that it could take a couple of days for normal deliveries to resume because of transportation cancellations and delays.

Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro was struggling to repair and maintain its supply to Newfoundland Power and its own customers. Power supplies snapped on and off in some areas.

Winds were so high that they ripped roofing materials and windows out of some buildings.

Several streets in St. John's, including a section of the downtown, were closed as crews cleaned up debris. A part of Memorial University's campus was closed when glass shattered on an overhead pedestrian crossing that connects two recreation complexes.

The Canadian Hurricane Centre had warned Newfoundlanders to expect at least 12 hours of intense weather over the island, with extraordinarily high winds to the east of the storm's centre, and heavy rains to the west.

Environment Canada meteorologist Devon Telford said Leslie was so intense in its early hours that it was "almost a hurricane."

Leslie arrived in Canadian waters with near hurricane force strength, with maximum sustained winds of 110 km/h. Those winds accelerated as Leslie hit land.

Environment Canada has issued weather alerts for the entire island of Newfoundland, with tropical storm warnings and hurricane watches in the south and east. The rest of the island is mostly under rainfall or wind warnings. The storm is expected to brush into southern Labrador.

Badger, a small town in central Newfoundland, declared a state of emergency as a precaution, Mayor Michael Patey said. The town's old water storage tower has been condemned for years, and Patey told CBC News that there are fears high winds will cause it crash. Neighbouring houses have been evacuated.

Eastern Newfoundland is expected to bear the brunt of the wind with gusts of up to 120 km/h or higher, according to Environment Canada.

The western end of the island will likely see heavy rainfall. Leslie is also expected to drench parts of P.E.I. and Nova Scotia, where rain warnings were also issued.

All schools on Newfoundland were ordered closed in advance of the storm and Marine Atlantic said it was cancelling ferries between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, with regular service not expected to resume until Wednesday.

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

In the Indian Brook First Nation, in central Nova Scotia, 135 people were stranded as the heavy rain washed out the two access roads to the community.

Western Newfoundland was also drenched on Monday, flooding roads and homes.

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 run-off, said Newfoundland Fire and Emergency Services spokeswoman Cheryl Gullage.

[ [ [['xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx', 11]], '27013743', '0' ], [ [['keyword', 9999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999]], 'videoID', '1', 'overwrite-pre-description', 'overwrite-link-string', 'overwrite-link-url' ] ]