Nfld. & Labrador

Most intense storm on the planet pounding Newfoundland and Labrador, say officials

Newfoundland Power says electricity is expected to be restored to hardest-hit areas by early Friday.

A stack at the Holyrood generating station has been swaying in the high winds

The waves are smacking against the rocks in Bonavista. (Submitted by Eric Abbott)

Newfoundland and Labrador is in the throes of the "most intense storm" on the planet, according to a meteorologist in Gander.

Wild, whipping winds gusting upwards of 130 km/h are causing huge waves, delays, cancellations and closures across the province.

"[It's] not fun to be out in, or drive anywhere in," said Tabea Fiechter, a meteorologist with the weather office in Gander.

As of 12:40 p.m., there were 10,000 customers in the province without power because of severe weather and winds, according to Newfoundland Power.

"Unfortunately, with the continuing high winds and blowing snow in many areas, new outages are occurring," Michele Coughlan, a Newfoundland Power representative, said in an email Thursday afternoon.

Red symbols indicate outages affecting 1,000 or more customers. Orange indicates 200-1,000 customers affected. (Newfoundland Power)

Trees have blown over into power lines and whiteout conditions are making repairs difficult, she told The St. John's Morning Show on Thursday morning.

"It's not just one or two trees, it's seven trees, five trees. And as you get one tree removed the crews are finding that there are other trees that have come into line."

Central Newfoundland has been hit the hardest with blackouts because of trouble on the main transmission line serving the areas of Twillingate and Summerford.

In the Fogo Island and Change Islands area, people may be without power until 8 p.m. Thursday, she said. 

"Two important structures that support that line are severely damaged."

Swaying stacks at Holyrood

Over in Holyrood, one of the exhaust stacks on the Holyrood generating station was swaying in the high winds, according to Erin Squires, a spokesperson for Newfoundland Hydro.

She said the swaying stack doesn't pose a threat to anybody's safety, nor the island's supply of hydro, but that non-essential staff were sent home "as a precautionary measure."

She said it was abnormal for the wind to affect a stack like that, "but we don't often get winds that are this high."

Two of the station's three generators are currently working, she said, including the unit with the swaying stack. The third is down for scheduled maintenance.

Flying debris and crashing waves

In St. John's, flying debris has shut down Prince Philip Drive from Westerland Road to Morrissey Road.

Environment Canada has issued wind warnings for most of the Avalon, with storm surge warnings affecting the northeast and east coasts of the peninsula. 

More exposed areas of the northeast Avalon coast like Bonavista and Twillingate are ducking under sustained winds of 100 km/h and gusts of 140 km/h, Fiechter said.

The wharf in Avondale before the storm surge, left, and after. (Submitted by Lori McCarthy)

With that wind, nine-metre waves are pounding that coastline, she said.

"[There is] definitely potential for damage in those areas."

Out in the Grand Banks, she said, those waves are reaching 11 metres.

The Northern Peninsula and west coast of the island are under winter storm warnings.

Wind warnings have been issued for Makkovik and Rigolet, while the rest of the Labrador coast braces under winter storm warnings.

Many flights at the St. John's International Airport, the Gander Airport and the Deer Lake airport are cancelled or delayed.

Marine Atlantic has cancelled its crossings for the day, and Labrador Marine says the Apollo ferry will likely stay tied up today as well. 

All schools in Gander and Corner Brook have also been closed for the morning, and many schools in Labrador, central Newfoundland and the Avalon region have been delayed for the morning.

For the latest updates on closures, delays and cancellations, check out our Newfoundland Storm Centre and our Labrador Storm Centre.

Blowing snow

The west coast has seen a bit of snow, most notably in areas in higher elevations around Marble Mountain and Deer Lake, she said.

The concern is not the accumulation, which will be minimal, she said, but the effects of the wind on that snow.

"It doesn't take a lot of snow with this kind of wind to really reduce visibility," she said.

There is a blowing snow advisory for Gander, and drivers in Twillingate, and Bonavista will also have a tough time seeing the road ahead, she said.

Winds to subside Thursday night

Winds will start to die down Thursday afternoon in most areas, Fietcher said, but only slightly — those exposed areas along the northeast Avalon coast will still have gusts up to 110 km/h throughout the afternoon.

Throughout the night, she said, winds will stay gusting between 50 km/h and 80 km/h, and will then start slowing down. 

Power is expected to be restored to the Twillingate and Summerford areas in the early hours of the morning, according to Newfoundland Power. 

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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