National News

The worst is over as Arthur leaves Maritimes

By Geordon Omand, The Canadian Press

HALIFAX - The remnants of a post-tropical storm Arthur were moving out of Atlantic Canada late Sunday as an official at the Canadian Hurricane Centre said the worst is over, but the system's aftermath was going to affect many residents well into Monday.

The New Brunswick government announced on Sunday that all of its offices in the Fredericton-area would be closed Monday due to clean up issues and power outages caused by Arthur.

New Brunswick Power reported late Sunday that more than 100,000 customers in the province remained without power, nearly half in the provincial capital region. Nova Scotia Power's website listed more than 65,000 outages.

Environment Canada lifted all storm warnings over land in the Atlantic region in the wake of the potent storm, which brought with it near-hurricane strength winds and torrential rains across the Maritimes.

"The storm has weakened significantly from 12 hours ago," Chris Fogarty, manager of Canada's Halifax-based hurricane centre, said Sunday afternoon. "Most of the impacts are over, with just a few heavy showers lingering in Newfoundland. They do have some gusty winds there, but nothing like we saw yesterday."

Forecasters predicted strong winds of up to 70 kilometres an hour would linger around Cape Breton on Sunday, but only five-to-10 millimetres of rainfall was expected for Newfoundland, concentrated mostly on the Avalon Peninsula.

Environment Canada downgraded the weather system from hurricane status right before it slammed into the Maritimes on Saturday morning, but the storm still packed a punch, drenching parts of New Brunswick, toppling trees and knocking out power for more than a quarter-million people at its peak intensity.

Fogarty noted that while downgrading a hurricane to a post-tropical storm may mean a decrease in the most extreme wind and rain conditions, the transformation often significantly expands the overall area affected by the storm and can often mean an increase in its total energy.

Arthur's strongest winds were measured at Greenwood, N.S., which experienced powerful gusts of nearly 140 kilometres an hour.

New Brunswick experienced the most severe rainfall and localized flooding, including the southwest town of Saint Stephen, which by Sunday morning was soaked with more than 140 millimetres of rain.

Crews set to work on Sunday to restore power to tens of thousands of people in all three Maritime provinces.

Most customers were informed it could be as long as two days before they are reconnected, with an unlucky few told they may have not have power until Wednesday.

Fredericton was one of the hardest-hit areas, with more than one third of the province's blackouts occurring in the greater municipal area.

The city's head of public safety Wayne Tallon estimated around 2,000 trees were either down or damaged in the area and that cleanup could take as long as three weeks.

But despite the devastation, Tallon said community members remained in positive spirits.

"So far I can't be more pleased with the residents of the city," he said, "They've been very cooperative with us and very patient."

His sentiments were shared by longtime resident Marilyn Kaufman, who said the city was firmly in cleanup mode, with the sound of chainsaws and repair crews to be heard throughout the streets.

"Neighbour helping neighbour, ... that's basically the epitome of the Frederictonians," said the retired teacher, who by Sunday afternoon had been without power for 24 hours.

Besides downed brush and power lines obstructing the roadways, Kaufman said moving around the city was further complicated by lengthy rows of vehicles backed up into the streets at various gas stations.

On Sunday, several New Brunswick municipalities opened reception centres to allow residents without power a chance to charge their phones and other electronics. Charging stations are located in Fredericton, Quispamsis, Oromocto and Grand Bay-Westfield.

Bridgewater, N.S., also opened a recharge station for affected residents.

The storm's centre was expected to move into the open Atlantic by late Sunday, but its dwindling effects were expected to be felt in Newfoundland overnight.

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