MAYOR UPDATE: Clean up efforts underway in Newfoundland
Sunday, March 12, 2017, 10:15 AM - Thousands are still without power Sunday after hurricane force winds lashed parts of Newfoundland, leaving widespread damage behind.
While the violent winds continue to push offshore Sunday, blizzard warnings remain in effect for western portions of the province.
St. John's mayor Dennis O'Keefe was startled while driving his grandchildren home from a swimming lesson around noon Saturday when the powerful winds shook his vehicle.
"It was unusual and very disconcerting to say at least to feel my car actually lift off the highway," he told The Weather Network. "Not that it was in danger of turning over or anything else, but the velocity of the wind that actually would shake the car. I've been here all my life and I haven't experienced that very often I can guarantee, if at all."
Like many across St. John's, the power was cut to the mayor's home.
"The city now has opened a warming centre down at City Hall for those who have not had their power restored," O'Keefe told The Weather Network Sunday morning.
"Right now power has been restored to a huge amount of people here in the city, but there's still roughly about maybe 15,000 people who are still without power in the city, and Newfoundland Power thinks the great majority of that amount will have power by six o'clock this afternoon. That will relieve the pressure in a major way."
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City staff along with the the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary advised all residents to avoid unnecessary travel and stay indoors Saturday.
Traffic signals are out across St. John's, which is of particular concern, according to O'Keefe.
"Despite the fact that it's a sunny day, the winds have been so high that many of these traffic signals are actually now on the ground and so people have to be very careful getting around," he said.
Until the winds abate, the mayor urges those who have to travel to treat any intersection where the lights are out as a four-way stop.
City staff are also working on a structural and situational awareness evaluation, according to the mayor.
"It's an evaluation of the conditions and issues such as the power lines, signals, damage to buildings, signs and debris that may be blowing around, and prioritizing those so that all of these issues will be dealt with in a timely fashion."
The Tim Horton's Brier in St. John's was delayed Saturday afternoon due to a power outage. The lights went out at the Mile One Centre during a game between Kevin Koe and Brad Jacobs.
Meanwhile, in Paradise, Newfoundland, resident Ken Hooper was moving his vehicle to a safer area earlier on Saturday when he heard a loud bang and turned around to see his shed had blown about 30 feet across his property.
"From looking around my house, I know siding has also been torn off in multiple locations, same with some of my neighbours," he told The Weather Network. "Some siding, the eavestrough and some soffit that you see near the roof."
Hooper was baffled to see his neighbour's large trailer with snowmobiles inside completely flipped over.
"I guess it's fairly superficial damage in the big scheme of things, but relative to some of our past storms, this one seems to have a real edge to it. It's just making a big mess," he noted. "I guess it's part of life on the rock."
According to Hooper, neighbours were communicating over text and social media to ensure the safety of local residents.
In comparison to 2010's Hurricane Igor, Hooper said the damage from Saturday's low pressure system seems to be more extensive.
"It seems to be marginally more intense. The damage I have seen on my own property and my neighbours, it's definitely more severe," he said. "It may have to do with the elevation here. Overall, I don't know statistically how it compares, but it is a big one."
Meteorologists say sustained winds at St. John's Airport hit 106 km/h around 12:30 p.m. local time Saturday. It's been 40 years since the city experienced 100+ km/h sustained winds (January 20, 1977).
"Just to be in the house when the house is shaking and the windows are rattling, everyone gets a little nervous," he told The Weather Network. "It reminds you how powerful, how we're really at the mercy of the weather in this part of the world."
City staff are reminding residents of all local emergency numbers:
- Emergencies that require assistance from fire, police or ambulance – call 911
- To report blocked streets of downed trees – call 311
- To report downed power lines in your area, do not touch or attempt to move them, advise Newfoundland Power immediately by calling 1-800-474-5711
To report malfunctioning traffic lights residents are asked to contact Access St. John's at 311 or 754-CITY (2489).
WATCH BELOW: Traffic lights fight to hang on against strong Newfoundland winds