FORTUNE, Newfoundland (AP) — Tropical Storm Leslie's stiff winds and heavy rains lashed Newfoundland as the storm made landfall Tuesday, knocking out power in several towns and forcing the cancellation of all flights at the island's main airport.
The potent storm touched down in Fortune, Newfoundland, at about 8:30 a.m. AST (7:30 a.m. EST, 1130 GMT) as it continued to barrel north-northeast at at about 40 mph (65 kph), the Canadian Hurricane Centre said.
Winds were still building, with the St. John's airport recording hurricane-force gusts of up to 81 mph (131 kph), while waves were reaching 10 yards (meters) at an offshore buoy. Several towns along eastern Newfoundland had already lost power and flights were cancelled before the hurricane made landfall Tuesday.
The Canadian Hurricane Centre predicted at least 12 hours of intense rain over the northeastern province's hilly terrain, which could generate rapid runoffs, said the agency's program supervisor Chris Fogarty. The center was warning of possible damage from toppled trees, flooded streets and downed power lines.
Leslie was not expected to be quite as ferocious as Hurricane Igor, which caused about CA$125 million (US$128.5 million) in damages and left some parts of Newfoundland without power for several days in 2010, the Halifax-based hurricane center said.
Forecaster Bob Robichaud of Environment Canada said Leslie was gaining strength as it moved over warm waters, but its massive size may prevent it from reaching hurricane status. Storm watches were in effect for most of Newfoundland.
"If it was a smaller storm, there would most definitely be strengthening and we'd almost certainly have a hurricane at landfall," he said. "But given the size of the storm, it takes a lot more to spin it up."
Bands of rain have been extending out ahead of Leslie, dousing some areas on the Burin and Avalon peninsulas with sheets of rain.
Environment Canada has issued weather alerts for the entire island of Newfoundland, with tropical storm warnings and hurricane watches in the south and east. The rest of the island is mostly under rainfall or wind warnings. The storm is expected to brush into southern Labrador.
Power was knocked out throughout the provincial capital of St. John's and communities along the southeastern coast of the Avalon peninsula, and all flights at the airport were cancelled. Striking airport workers who briefly picketed outside braved powerful wind gusts that picked up a port-a-potty tied down by a rope.
The Newfoundland legislature was closed Tuesday, along with schools across the island. Marine Atlantic cancelled ferry crossings to Nova Scotia, while some domestic ferries also tied up to weather out the storm.
Badger, a small town in central Newfoundland, declared a state of emergency as a precaution, Mayor Michael Patey said. Some homes have been evacuated.
Leslie was also expected to drench parts of Prince Edward Isle and Nova Scotia, where rain warnings were also issued.
Red Cross spokesman Dan Bedell said supplies and additional people have been taken to the Burin Peninsula, on the south coast of the island, where Igor pounded Newfoundland as a Category 1 hurricane almost two years ago. Igor dumped eight inches (20 centimeters) of rain. The hurricane was also blamed for one death.
Nasty weather had already battered Atlantic Canada before Leslie's arrival. The center said a trough of low pressure had already dumped heavy rain on parts of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.
Evacuation orders were issued Monday for Truro, Nova Scotia, where sheets of heavy rain caused two rivers to spill their banks as several dikes gave way, leading to flooding in Colchester County.
Fire and Emergency Services worked Monday to shore up resources to ensure crews are ready to deal with the storm. Crews were trying to make sure that culverts and ditches were cleared to facilitate rapid runoffs, said Newfoundland Fire and Emergency Services spokeswoman Cheryl Gullage.
"We've warned people to stay away from fast moving bodies of water," Gullage said. "We've taken preparedness measures within our control to mitigate large damages but we have no idea how this will impact until it actually hits." She added that authorities are prepared to move people to shelters if necessary.
Patricia Devine, of Clarenville in southeastern Newfoundland, nervously hunkered down just two years after Igor caused more than CA$25,000 (US$25,600) in flood damage to her home.
"All over this town trees were down, an awful lot of people got flooded basements. Oh, it was awful," she said. "In fact, I'm very nervous. I'm saying a lot of prayers."
She was among many residents who spent Monday buying food, water and gasoline, checking sump pumps, preparing generators and making sure they had flashlights, batteries and emergency contact numbers at hand.
Also in the Atlantic, Michael weakened to a tropical storm early Tuesday with maximum sustained winds near 65 mph (100 kph). Additional weakening was expected and the storm was expected to fizzle out in about a day. The storm was not a threat to land.
Associated Press writer Charmaine Noronha in Toronto contributed to this report.