'Unprecedented' storm moves over southwestern Newfoundland

A severe rainstorm is beginning to move over southwestern Newfoundland, and meteorologists say it will break records.

'It's almost eerily similar to … what happened to B.C.,' says meteorologist

A severe rainstorm is bearing down on southwestern Newfoundland Tuesday. (Troy Turner/CBC)

A severe rainstorm is moving over southwestern Newfoundland, in what meteorologists are predicting will be an "unprecedented" weather event. 

"For me, this is my first time seeing a rainstorm like this. It's almost eerily similar to kind of what happened to B.C. just a few weeks ago, with the atmospheric river just pumping lots of moisture into the air," said Veronica Sullivan of Environment Canada's weather office in Gander. 

"I don't think we'll see as bad an impact here as what happened in B.C., but still it's going to be something to watch and it's going to break a lot of weather records."

She said the Port aux Basques area can expect 150 to 200 millimetres of rain on Tuesday, and in areas with higher terrain, more than 300 millimetres is expected.

Sullivan said some weather models suggest the rain total could even reach 400 millimetres in high-elevation areas, and while the actual rainfall may be much less, the water will flow downwards from mountain areas and could significantly affect water levels below.

"It's going to be something to watch. Torrential rain, really gusty winds. It's really not going to be a good time to be travelling down there," she told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show. "[It's] very likely that there will be some washouts and localized flooding."

Close to 30 millimetres of rain has fallen in the area as of 5:30 p.m. NT, but totals are expected to ramp up through the night and into Wednesday.

WATCH | Storm brings brings heavy rain, wind to Atlantic Canada: 

Storm bringing heavy rains, wind to Atlantic Canada

2 years ago
Duration 1:58
A slow-moving storm has lashed parts of Nova Scotia and the same system is expected to bring more heavy rain and strong winds to Newfoundland and Labrador.

In a news release, the province said its Emergency Operations Centre has been activated to provide help when and where it's needed. Also, crews with the Department of Transportation are working throughout the day to clear culverts and remove debris that could impact travel and water flow.

According to Public Safety Minister John Hogan, there are also three helicopters stationed in the region for use if roads in the community get washed out. He said there have been no reports of infrastructure damage or flooding, but noted water levels are rising in nearby Isle aux Morts.

The province encouraged residents to stay home and make sure to have emergency supplies available.

Wind in the Wreckhouse area is expected to reach 150 km/h throughout Tuesday and 160 km/h in the night. The wind is expected to diminish overnight, but is predicted to pick up again Wednesday morning.

But strong wind isn't going to be unique to the Wreckhouse, Sullivan said. She said the entire west coast of the island will feel strong gusts.

Port aux Basques resident Danny Pearce said people in the community are used to the wind, but the amount of rain is a first for him. (Danny Arsenault/CBC)

The coast felt windy Tuesday, but some residents said that was just par for the course in Channel-Port aux Basques.

"It's not too bad. We've seen lots of storms here before," resident Danny Pearce said. "We're used to the wind. But the rain? We're not used to that stuff, right? A hundred and fifty millimetres."

Pearce said he was most concerned about sea surges. Environment Canada reported Monday that sea states could reach 10 metres.

'Prepare for the worst and hope for the best'

Channel-Port aux Basques Mayor Brian Button said he realized on Sunday the storm would require a lot of attention, and sent an email to council members.

"So far, it's been pretty busy. The last couple of days anticipating the weather and the forecast … we've had staff that have been pretty busy," Button said Tuesday afternoon.

"We've done a lot of work on the infrastructure here. But still, there's always times that we do have things that are plugged up and so on and so forth."

Heavy seas are picking up off the coast of southwestern Newfoundland. (Troy Turner/CBC)

Button said he is concerned about the rain expected later Tuesday evening that could flow down from the mountains, which could cause washouts on the Trans-Canada Highway and impact things like travel to medical appointments and the delivery of goods across the province.

"This is the gateway to the province," he said. "Services come into the island or our product comes into the island. Seeing any washouts there and cutting off the community and cutting off the rest of the province is worrisome."

Button said town officials have also been trying to shake the idea of complacency that can come from having been through previous storms. 

"Let's prepare for the worst and hope for the best," he said. "And if at the end of the day if it turns out to be not much more than what we've seen in the past, I'll love to hear them on the street say 'I told you so.' " 

"But if it's the other side, I hate to hear the horror stories."

The town's fire department says they're prepared for power outages and have set up a warming centre at the local fire hall with tables, chairs, generators and a fully stocked kitchen if needed.

"If there's going to be any power outages, be careful if you're using any secondary heating like propane heaters or kerosene heaters and lamps. That would pose another risk," Channel-Port aux Basques fire Chief Jerry Musseau said.

"I think this is gonna be a nasty one.… [The storm] is probably gonna be in our minds for a long time after this is over."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show, Peter Cowan, Garrett Barry and Patrick Butler

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