NEWS

Southeastern Newfoundland Gets Glancing Blow From Hurricane Gonzalo

10/19/2014 07:27 EDT | Updated 12/19/2014 05:59 EST
ST JOHNS, N.L. - Hurricane Gonzalo howled just off southeastern Newfoundland early Sunday dumping heavy rain but the fast-moving storm left little trace besides pounding surf.

Gonzalo struck a glancing blow in the capital St. John's and on the Avalon Peninsula before racing out into the North Atlantic.

The Canadian Hurricane Centre said about 48 millimetres of rain was recorded at St. John's International Airport on Sunday morning.

Meteorologist Chris Fogarty said the province "dodged a bullet."

"It pretty much tracked exactly where we thought it would and the winds over land were quite gusty and very heavy rainfalls but ... things stayed quite quiet over land," Fogarty said from Halifax.

"It was definitely a close call. If it tracked about 200 kilometres farther north, they would have gotten some very damaging winds."

Fogarty said wave heights were continuing to increase Sunday morning on the southern coast of the Avalon Peninsula, reaching up to 12 metres. He said low tide was expected to help ease any effects of the crashing surf.

Sharon Topping, who lives in Trepassey on the Avalon's southeast coast, said there was no major damage or debris on the roads but the sea was churning. She took a drive farther east early Sunday.

"The waves there are phenomenal," she said of remote Cape Race on the southeast tip of Newfoundland where the distress signal from RMS Titanic was received April 14, 1912.

"The ocean is furious."

Topping said she was prepared for much more severe weather but was relieved to see Gonzalo go quietly.

"You've got to be prepared for the worst."

Onshore wind blasts up to almost 70 kilometres an hour drove pouring rain sideways early Sunday at Cape Spear southeast of St. John's. Those conditions weren't enough to put off more than 350 runners who showed up for a 20-kilometre road race from the iconic lighthouse to Cabot Tower on Signal Hill.

The scenic but hilly course is billed as the toughest endurance race of its kind in eastern North America, and that's on a good day.

"I'm crazy," Doug Grouchy of St. John's laughed before he and other runners took off at 8 a.m. local time.

"We've done it every year and we couldn't stop for a hurricane," Carolyn Jones of nearby St. Philip's said of the gruelling race, now in its eighth year.

Race director Steve Delaney said 357 people finished.

By 11 a.m., there was blue sky and sunshine over St. John's. There were no reports of widespread power outages, damage or major injuries.

Far offshore, waves of more than 12 metres were forecast on the Grand Banks. At least 700 people working on the Hibernia, Terra Nova and SeaRose offshore oil installations were not evacuated. Operators said all necessary precautions were being taken at sites designed to withstand extreme weather.

"Because it has tracked farther west than expected they anticipate lower wind and wave heights than the original forecast," Husky Energy spokeswoman Colleen McConnell said Sunday.

Husky operates the SeaRose floating production, storage and offloading vessel in the White Rose oil field about 350 kilometres southeast of St. John's.

Fogarty warned that areas along the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia from Shelburne to Louisbourg would also experience high seas and rip currents Sunday.

Crews were clearing away downed trees and power lines over the weekend after Gonzalo battered Bermuda for several hours but caused no deaths or serious injuries.

The storm's centre crossed over Bermuda late Friday and Gonzalo quickly moved northward. More than 18,000 homes in Bermuda were still without power Saturday night.

— With files from Aly Thomson and The Associated Press

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