People in eastern Newfoundland are waking up to downed trees and debris in the road and widespread power outages after hurricane Larry pounded the Avalon peninsula Friday night.
The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary says roads are covered in debris across the peninsula and the force is asking residents to stay off the streets as officers report fallen trees and power lines.
In a tweet this morning, Newfoundland Power assured the tens of thousands of people without power in the region that crews hit the ground at first light to start making repairs.
The National Hurricane Centre says hurricane Larry made landfall as a Category 1 storm just after midnight local time.
The storm crashed inland on the western shores of Placentia Bay on the Burin Peninsula with maximum sustained winds of 130 kilometres per hour, bringing heavy rain and pounding seas.
Part of the roof of an elementary school in the capital, Mary Queen of Peace, appeared to have collapsed or was ripped away by the winds, social media photos showed.
As Larry approached throughout the day Friday, residents were strapping their barbecues to their porches and emptying grocery store shelves in preparation for power outages, toppled trees and property damage.
Stores in the St. John’s region closed early as a thick fog descended on the city ahead of the storm. The entire Avalon Peninsula — the most populous region of the province — hunkered down as meteorologists and government officials urged people to stock up, secure their belongings and stay indoors.
“Our confidence is high that the Avalon is the bull’s-eye for the strongest winds,” Bob Robichaud, a senior meteorologist with the Canadian Hurricane Centre in Halifax, said in an interview earlier Friday.
The storm would likely move quickly across the peninsula, he told a news conference. “The main concern is the strong winds, potentially very damaging winds, and also those waves and potential storm surge along the south coast of the island,” he said.
A Sobeys grocery store in downtown St. John’s was busy Friday evening with people moving quickly through the aisles. The chips and snacks section was significantly depleted, and the aisle storing bottled water was nearly empty. “The day’s been a whirlwind,” said one staff member who was not authorized to speak on the record. “No pun intended.”
Earlier Friday, federal election campaign volunteers were scrambling to dismantle candidates’ signs as the storm closed in. Amanda Will, campaign manager for NDP candidate Mary Shortall, said her team has been taking down signs for days in case they become projectiles in the high winds.
“There’s hundreds of signs on people’s lawns,” she said in an interview. “They’ve been flying out fast and furious, but we don’t want them to be flying fast and furious!”
On social media, people shared reminders to charge phones and offered extra supplies to anyone in need.
The regional health authority urged anyone with a COVID-19 vaccination scheduled Friday evening to show up before 5 p.m. or reschedule their appointment.
Dave Sullivan, who lives just outside St. John’s in Portugal Cove, shared pictures of his garbage bin and barbecue strapped to his porch with fluorescent orange ratchet straps. “My house is north-facing, so I was sure to lash down at the front, thereby using my home as a wind break,” he said in a Facebook message.
The provincial government issued a statement saying residents should prepare a basic emergency kit to sustain them for at least 72 hours. The kit should have food, water, batteries, a portable radio and prescription medications. In the event of a blackout, the province asked people to use flashlights instead of candles and to refrain from using a gas range, stove or oven to heat a home.
“You should use extra layers of clothes and blankets to stay warm,” the statement said, adding that electric generators should not be used inside of any structure, including garages and sheds.
Not everyone can afford to have three days worth of food on hand, said Josh Smee, chief executive officer of Food First NL, an organization addressing food insecurity issues in the province. Smee said his team worked with people over the past few days to get food into their pantries before the storm hit.
“We know that any extended disruption will be a food security problem,” he said Friday in an email.
In 2010, hurricane Igor trudged across eastern Newfoundland, dumping 232 millimetres of rain in some areas. The resulting flooding forced some towns to declare states of emergency as they were isolated by overflowing rivers and washed out roads.
On Sept. 11, 2012, post-tropical storm Leslie shredded power lines and tore off roofs across a wide swath of the Avalon Peninsula. That storm produced winds of 137 km/h.
“That’s certainly in the ballpark of what we’re talking about with Larry,” Robichaud said in an interview.
— With files from Global’s Michael MacDonald in Halifax and Sean Boynton in Vancouver
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