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Wednesday, September 8, 2010 Toronto Edition
 
 
Inside thestar.com

Man drowns as Hurricane Earl barrels through Maritimes

2010/09/04 21:39:00
Frances Robinson, left, and her son Jeremy Rotundo catch some wind as they brave hurricane Earl on the rocks at Cape Forchu, N.S. on Sept. 4,  2010. Blank Image

Video: Hurricane Earl barrels through Maritimes

The remnants of hurricane Earl made landfall down the coast from Halifax Saturday, toppling trees and bringing down power lines as the storm barrelled through the Maritimes. (Sept. 4, 2010)

Tara Brautigam The Canadian Press

HALIFAX—Hurricane Earl is being blamed for one death as it barrelled through Atlantic Canada on Saturday, yanking trees from their roots and toppling power lines.

Earl made landfall down the coast from Halifax, which appeared to have borne the brunt of the storm's strong winds, uprooting trees that littered some of the city's streets.

Patsy Newman surveyed the damage to a massive tree that once blocked the sunshine from streaming into her front windows — before the storm sent it crashing into a neighbouring house.

Earl ripped the tree's shallow roots from the ground, pulling up grass and large chunks of the sidewalk before sending huge branches into a second-floor balcony next door.

“You could see the ground undulating up and down a few times,” said Newman, motioning with her hands.

“Then the tree heaved and that was it.”

The retired teacher said she warned a group of university students who were hanging out on the porch next door that the tree was coming down.

“Some people ran back inside, some people ran out into the street,” said Sarah Taggart, who lives in the home. “It took about 10 seconds and then it was down. ... It was pretty scary actually.”

Taggart, 23, said no one was hurt and the tree didn't puncture the house or break any windows.

“It's just the deck,” she said. “My barbecue's been squashed.”

The storm, fuelled in part by air and sea temperatures warmer than normal, brought heavy sheets of rain and swift gusts throughout the region. It picked up speed as it brushed across the Maritimes and western Newfoundland.

The body of a 54-year-old man was pulled from Blind Bay near Bayside, west of Halifax. Police said Johnny Mitchell Jr. drowned when he and another man tried to secure their boat after it became loose from its mooring. Officers said Mitchell, who was wearing a life-jacket, tried to swim back to shore from the boat but didn't make it.

The province's Emergency Management Office said the death was the result of the storm.

“I am deeply saddened by this tragedy, which further underscores the severity of hurricanes and major weather events,” Ramona Jennex, the minister responsible for the EMO, said in a statement.

Forecasters debated whether Earl was a tropical storm or a Category 1 hurricane when it made landfall 85 kilometres southwest of Lunenburg, N.S. The Canadian Hurricane Centre said it would make the final determination in a post-storm analysis, expected in a few weeks, though forecaster Chris Fogarty said an offshore buoy recorded wind speeds of 120 kilometres per hour.

In historic Lunenburg, Earl ripped the branches off trees and left the picturesque tourist town strewn with shredded leaves and shrubbery.

Just after noon, the town's fire department was called to inspect a huge tree, pushed partially out of the soil on a residential side street.

The tree, about 15 metres tall, was left leaning precariously on a utility pole as the two elderly residents of a nearby home looked on in dismay.

Down the street, resident Ruth Searle said she was surprised Earl had inflicted only minor damage on the town as she surveyed her undamaged, century-old home.

“There was sheets of rain ... and huge, great winds — the trees were just bending,” she said as the rain let up and the wind subsided.

Searle, who has lived in Lunenburg for 14 years, said the power was cut to her home around 9 a.m.

“I can't have any tea,” she said, stopping to pick up one of the dozens of small branches scattered around her otherwise pin-neat property.

Around the corner, summer resident Jenice Benton said Earl was a pussycat.

“It seemed pretty anti-climactic from inside the house,” said Benton, who in the winter months lives in Arizona.

“We have a generator. So we were able to watch TV because we had power. I know a lot of people around us don't. ... We heard that Lunenburg was going to be the eye of the storm, and we got a little nervous ... but we were fine.”

Ron Allen ventured outside at the height of the storm to check the wharf near his home in Dayspring, not far from Bridgewater, N.S.

“When I went to bed last night, I thought the storm was going to go up the Bay of Fundy and I was feeling kind of bad for them, and sort of happy for us,” he said as the sideways rain pelted his dark green rain slicker.

“When I got up this morning, I turned on my laptop and checked — oh, jeez, it's not going up the bay ... and I had about two minutes before the power went off.”

As Allen spoke, an RCMP cruiser raced by, its flashing lights reflected in the rain-slicked highway.

“There's a lot of branches down. ... What's amusing to me is the number of cars on the road. People are out checking things.”

In Mahone Bay on the province's South Shore, the force generated by wind gusts were so strong that several boats docked in the harbour were pulled from their mooring. Three, including two power boats and a houseboat, were lifted onto the rocks.

Blackouts were reported throughout Nova Scotia. At one point, more than 200,000 customers were without power, according to Nova Scotia Power.

Large parts of Halifax were without power Saturday night and Nova Scotia Power was warning some parts of the city would be without electricity until Sunday morning.

Power was also reported lost in parts of Prince Edward Island as the storm crossed the eastern part of the province.

Aside from extensive power outages and downed trees, officials with Nova Scotia's Emergency Management Office and the RCMP had no major incidents to report.

“In our experience, it's usually some hours or days after the storm passes before you can really recognize the impact,” said Mike Myette, EMO director of emergency services.

RCMP Const. Meredith Darrah said driving conditions were bad in many places, with water causing hydroplaning, but there were no major accidents in the province.

There were reports of 100 km/h winds in Lunenburg and gusts that neared 90 km/h at the Halifax airport, said Fogarty.

Eastern Prince Edward Island was also in the storm's path where the hurricane centre said property damage was a possibility from the wind.

Heavy rain was reported in parts of southern New Brunswick and police in Saint John closed access to Saints Rest Beach to stop people from heading to the shoreline to watch waves.

RCMP said the road to the popular Peggy's Cove tourist site near Halifax was closed to keep curious storm-watchers away from the dangerous, pounding surf.

Over the years, there have been a number of fatalities involving people who were swept off the rocks and into the churning seas.

There were also numerous flight cancellations at airports across the Maritimes.

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