03/11/2017 03:53 EST | Updated 03/13/2017 10:17 EDT

Winds Up To 180 km/h 'Wreak Havoc' In Newfoundland

The winds could knock over trees and cars.

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Residents in Newfoundland and Labrador are taking stock of the damage caused by this Saturday's fearsome windstorm.

Utility crews worked through overnight to restore power to the tens of thousands of customers who were left without electricity.

Newfoundland Power tweeted that 20,000 customers were still without power Sunday morning, down from 70,000 Saturday night. The utility said it hopes to get most residents back on the grid by Sunday evening, but isolated outages could last into Monday.

St. John's resident Phonse Fagan said he slept fully clothed under six blankets to stay warm after the heat and lights went out at his house Saturday at about noon. A shrieking gale had been picking up speed for the previous two hours when the power failed, he said as he sat Sunday reading in a warming centre at St. John's City Hall.

"I was doing a few chores around the house and I just noticed the sound was very unusual,'' he said. "The sound of the wind was just roaring through the whole neighbourhood,'' he said.

Fagan said there was flying debris from split trees.

"I've been talking to people who said siding was blown off their houses,'' he added

"The sound of the wind was just roaring through the whole neighbourhood.”

— Phonse Fagan

Around St. John's, damage was evident Sunday as a lengthy cleanup began. Slate tiles from a downtown church were blown into an alley 100 metres away, roofs were partly off several houses and buildings and a home in nearby Torbay had its top floor blown off.

Salvation Army Maj. John Goulding helped co-ordinate warming centres in St. John's and Mount Pearl for dozens of people who needed refuge.

"It was very powerful,'' he said of the storm that knocked out hydro to his house in Mount Pearl for several hours.

Goulding said the damage may not be on par with Hurricane Igor in September 2010, which brought torrents of rain over much of southeastern Newfoundland. Still, he said, it was a reminder of nature's power.

"I was out briefly yesterday doing some personal chores and I had great difficulty standing up,'' he said of trying to walk in the blasts of wind. "It's something you really had to experience to imagine what was happening.''

A meteorologist with Environment Canada said Sunday that the worst of the hurricane-force gusts, which broke records in some areas, has passed.

"Wind speeds are definitely down, so in that regard, it's not as dangerous anymore,'' Tabea Fiechter said in an interview. "It's just the cleanup after the storm now.''

Fiechter said between 140-km/hr and 160-km/hr winds blew through much of province Saturday, gusting to 180 km/hr on the Avalon peninsula.

Blizzard warnings are still in effect for parts of eastern Labrador and the west shore of Newfoundland. Fiechter said she expects winds to die down to about 40 to 60 km/hr Sunday as the storm peters out.

"That's nothing unusual for Newfoundland, really.''

Police asked motorists to stay off the roads Saturday to make it easier for utility and emergency crews to do their work.

Premier Dwight Ball has advised communities to check with insurance companies to fully understand policies and coverage in dealing with storm damage.

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