Hurricane Igor pelts eastern Canada with heavy rains; new storm heading toward Mexico

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hurricane Igor hits Canada with heavy rains

ST. JOHN’S, Newfoundland — Hurricane Igor pelted Canada’s Atlantic coast province of Newfoundland with heavy rain Tuesday, flooding communities, washing out roads and stranding some residents in their homes.

The Canadian Hurricane Centre said Igor had transformed into a “post-tropical” storm, which has a different structure from a hurricane but still packs the same punch. The storm battered Newfoundland, on Canada’s eastern coast.

In the Pacific, a mild tropical storm formed and then weakened into a tropical depression over the Mexican resort area of Baja California.

The Canadian Hurricane Centre said the change in Igor’s classification does not reflect a downgrade in the storm’s intensity because winds have strengthened as the storm draws energy from another weather system to the west.

“Normally the cool North Atlantic chills out these hurricanes, but this one came up with a vengeance and met another low pressure system and the combined wallop of the wind and the water has been quite devastating,” Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Williams said Igor caused tens of millions of dollars in damage, adding that it’s the hardest they’ve been hit in recent memory. He said 14 communities have declared a state of emergency and said 27 communities are isolated as a result of washouts and road damage. He said the damage is significant.

“There are a lot of homes that are nearly completely submerged. Barns and structures have been washed away, completely out to sea,” Williams said.

He said he would visit some of the affected communities Wednesday. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke with Williams. Dimitri Soudas, a spokesman for Harper, said the federal government stands ready to assist.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sgt. Boyd Merrill said they were investigating a report of a missing 80-year old man who was reportedly washed into the sea on Tuesday morning on Random Island when a driveway collapsed from underneath him due to heavy water flow. Merrill said police and the coast guard have not been able to access the island.

“This is not your normal heavy rainfall flooding. It’s having a major impact,” said Chris Fogarty, of the Hurricane Centre. He said more than 200 millimeters (8 inches) of rain have fallen in some regions.

Marystown Mayor Sam Synard said the storm was overwhelming his community’s capacity to cope.

“We’ve never seen such a violent storm before,” he said. “We’ve lost sections of our main roads, completely washed out to sea.”

Keith Rodway, a member of the Clarenville town council, said parts of his town had to be evacuated.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sgt. Wayne Edgecombe said heavy rains that flooded a key bridge in southern Newfoundland have left the Burin Peninsula’s 20,000 residents cut off from the rest of the province. Edgecombe said roads all over the peninsula have been washed out or submerged, but so far there have been no major crises.

Bob Pike of Newfoundland Power said tens of thousands of customers are without power.

Igor doggedly maintained maximum sustained winds around 86 mph (138 kph). On Tuesday night, the storm center was about 205 miles (330 kilometers) east-northeast of Gander, Newfoundland, and moving north at 27 mph (43 kph), the Hurricane Centre said.

Schools have been closed and some flights at St. John’s International Airport have been delayed or canceled. The Canadian company Husky Energy evacuated workers from two semi-submersible drilling rigs working the White Rose offshore oil field, spokeswoman Colleen McConnell said.

Igor left behind power outages, grounded boats and downed trees in Bermuda and kicked up dangerous surf on the U.S. Atlantic coast. After brushing past Bermuda, which escaped major damage, Igor veered away from the United States.

A 21-year-old man died while surfing in the storm-churned waves off Surf City, North Carolina, where he was pulled from the water Sunday afternoon. Last week, high surf kicked up by Igor swept two people out to sea in the Caribbean — one in Puerto Rico and another in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Meanwhile far out in the Atlantic, Tropical Storm Lisa formed early Tuesday with winds near 45 mph (75 kph). The storm was located about 525 miles (845 kilometers) west-northwest of the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa.

Associated Press writer Rob Gillies in Toronto and Ignacio Martinez in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, contributed to this report.

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