POLITICS

Thousands without power, big cleanup underway after Leslie hits Newfoundland

09/12/2012 11:15 EDT | Updated 11/12/2012 05:12 EST
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Workers cleaned up debris from post-tropical storm Leslie on Wednesday as utility crews tried to restore power for thousands of Newfoundlanders in St. John's and on the Avalon Peninsula.

Newfoundland Power said it was working to bring back electricity for residents and businesses one day after Leslie hammered southeastern Newfoundland with hurricane-force winds that tore apart roofs, toppled trees and snapped power lines.

The powerful storm also soaked the island's west coast with rain, and at its peak knocked out power for about 100,000 people for several hours.

In St. John's, many traffic lights were still out Wednesday afternoon and city workers started the big job of cleaning up scattered tree limbs and other debris. City crews worked well into Tuesday night sweeping a section of the downtown that was sprayed with glass from windows shattered during the storm.

Many Newfoundlanders were relieved that Leslie did not cause the large-scale flooding, road washouts and property devastation of hurricane Igor two years ago. Still, it was an unusually fierce system and it left a mess that will take at least two to three weeks to clear away, said Paul Mackey, deputy city manager and director of public works and parks for the City of St. John's.

"They were very comparable storms and they do significant damage —widespread damage — which is unusual for St. John's," he said Wednesday. "It makes a big effort for the cleanup afterwards.

"I think we have the thing in hand, it's just people have to understand that it's going to take us a while to work through all this and to get everything back to relative normal in terms of the parks and open spaces and the trail systems. But we are working our way through it methodically."

Mackey said 150 to 200 city staff can be mobilized or diverted from other duties at different times to help. Much of the havoc is in the city's older core, where hundreds of mature trees were uprooted or lost branches that fell onto homes or cars and tangled with power lines.

No serious injuries or major evacuations were reported after the storm blew over the province and out to sea.

Leslie was a hurricane-strength post-tropical storm with maximum sustained winds clocked at 120 km/h.