Devastated Igor leaves path of destruction

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An official with Fire and Emergency Services says hurricane Igor is the worst storm to hit the province in his memory."We have states of emergency in over 30 communities. We have, I think, around 19 communities or areas that are isolated," said Dennis Shea, a manager with the provincial agency.

Shea updated reporters during a joint news teleconference with the Canadian Hurricane Centre, at

4 o'clock Tuesday afternoon.

At that time, the centre reclassified Igor from a hurricane to a post-tropical storm, which officials stressed was not a downgrade.

"The wind speeds are, in fact, a bit stronger than they were when it was a pure hurricane, and the wind threat is still very high," the centre's program supervisor Chris Fogarty said.

Shea also said this is the first time in his memory the province has had a potential fatality related to a severe weather event.

The RCMP confirmed a report of a missing man in Lower Lance Cove on Random Island, due to storm-related conditions, Tuesday afternoon. Media reports said the man was washed out to sea when the road he was walking on was undermined.

But police were unable to get to the community to investigate be-cause roads on the island were washed out and impassable. However, people from the community did begin a search for the missing man.

By the time of the news conference, the eye of the post-tropical storm was 80 kilometres north east of St. John's, with the worst of Igor's ire still pelting the city.

"It's a very large storm circulation so the winds remain very high even down to the west of the Burin Peninsula," Fogarty said. "The circumference is huge."

He said the storm was still covering most of the eastern half of the island.

The largest rainfall amounts recorded by that time were in St. Lawrence - 217 mm - and in Bonavista - 193 mm. The highest wind speed was recorded at Sagona Island in Fortune Bay at 150 km an hour.

Shea informed reporters the Trans-Canada was closed in places, as was the Burin and Bonavista Highways.

The Department of Transportation also sent out a list of roads which were closed, at least temporarily.

Numerous flights were also cancelled at St. John's airport, and the Bell Island ferry was hauled out of service.

Flooding was reported as far west as Gambo.

Some people had to be evacuated from their homes by boat.

But Shea had no idea how many people have been displaced from their homes because of Igor.

He also said there were numerous power outages all over the island.

"There is a substation in Port Union on the Bonavista Peninsula that's underwater (and) severely damaged," said Shea.

He said Newfoundland Power was working to allocate its human resources to make sure crews can work around the clock to repair the damage.

A number of house and pole fires, caused by blown transformers, were also reported. Other utility poles were undermined by flooding or toppled by winds.

Shea was not aware of any significant impacts on the province's offshore facilities.

Environment Canada's weather station at Cape Race went offline during the storm, but it's unclear if it was damaged or just lost power.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Premier Danny Williams spoke to the media urging people to be safe during the storm.

Williams said provincial officials will be in communities across the eastern portion of the island today, assessing the damage and starting to clean up after Igor.

Shea said it would be some time before all the damage from the storm is cleaned up.

First, he said, officials have to wait for water levels to drop so they can inspect roads and bridges. Then a list of damages has to be prioritized so see what needs to be done first.

But Shea warned the clean-up bill will be costly.

"Just about every community on the Burin Peninsula and in the Clarenville area have reported significant damage," he said.

"I've been at this for quite a period of time. I've been involved in paying out over $100 million in damage claims," Shea continued. "Our biggest claim so far was tropical storm Chantal in 2007 which cost $25 million. I would anticipate this will far exceed Chantal."

Fogarty said it would be late evening before the winds calm down, especially in the St. John's area. And it would be midnight below they drop below dangerous levels.

dbartlett@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Canadian Hurricane Centre, RCMP, Trans-Canada Bonavista Highways.The Department of Transportation Port Union on the Bonavista Peninsula Newfoundland Power Environment Canada

Geographic location: St. John's, Lower Lance Cove on Random Island, Bonavista Fortune Bay Bell Island Cape Race Clarenville

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