Hurricane Bill weakening, but still packing a punch

CanWest News Service
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HALIFAX - Hurricane Bill began lashing southwest Nova Scotia on Sunday morning, and is expected to churn along the coast through the day, throwing its heaviest winds and rains on the northeast shore and at Cape Breton before moving onto Newfoundland by nightfall.
Officials at the Canadian Hurricane Centre in Halifax said the storm - which arrived as a category 1 hurricane at daybreak - was weakening and expected to diminish to a tropical storm by the time it made its first actual landfall on the Burin Peninsula of southeastern Newfoundland.
"It came into Maritime waters a little weaker than we expected," said Peter Bowyer, a Hurricane Centre forecaster. "It's still a very large storm, but what we've seen in the overnight is that the vast majority of gale force winds have pushed off into the open water.
"We're still expecting it to be very very close to hurricane strength, but not quite hurricane strength, when it reaches Newfoundland tonight."
Bill remains a vast geographic storm - 750 kilometres in diameter - however its most serious winds are now occurring on its eastern side. That's not good news for ships at sea, or East Coast oil and gas platforms, but it means the worst of its winds are unlikely to affect people and communities on shore, said Bowyer.
Winds of up to 130 km/h were recorded Sunday morning on marine buoys off the south coast of Nova Scotia.
Hurricane force winds above 100 km/h, heavy rains of up to 150 millimetres, and incoming waves eight to 10 metres high are still expected throughout the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia, lessening somewhat as the storm approaches Newfoundland.
Ocean storm surges and flooding are also expected on the coast of Cape Breton and across Placentia Bay in Newfoundland.
Heavy rains are forecast across Nova Scotia, eastern P.E.I. and southern New Brunswick.
Bowyer castigated the crowds of sightseers that have been gathering to gawk at the high waves crashing on the famous rocks at Peggy's Cove, N.S.
"We asked people not to do that, but they're doing it anyway," said Bowyer. "Cars at Peggy's Cove were lined up out to the highway, and people were all out on the rocks. We want to emphasize the danger of these kinds of waves coming into the coastline. This is not something to be taken lightly."
The RCMP and the Lifesaving Society of Nova Scotia have also warned the public to be vigilant around the province's beaches.
Most residents in coastal towns and cities are simply hunkering down Sunday as the storm approached. Although essential services such as hospitals remain open, flights are shut down at Halifax international airport, the ferry service was suspended between Cape Breton and Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia and P.E.I.
All provincial parks in Nova Scotia are closed.
Authorities who run the suspension bridges across Halifax harbour also warned the bridges might be shut down if winds get too high.
The Nova Scotia government's Emergency Measures program was activated Sunday morning, and awaiting damage reports from across the province.
In the town of Canso, N.S. - where Bill is expected to come very close Sunday afternoon - the volunteers at the local Lions Club were hooking up generators and propane stoves, preparing to cook meals for town residents who might lose power.
"The community is prepared as well as any community could be," said Ray White, the town's former mayor. "People here are used to strong winds and difficult weather."
Tens of thousands of people in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island lost power and other services for several days after hurricane Juan struck the region in September, 2003.
By mid-morning Sunday, only one minor power outage, affecting about 100 people, was reported in southwest Nova Scotia as a result of hurricane Bill.

Organizations: Canadian Hurricane Centre, RCMP, Lifesaving Society of Nova Scotia Lions Club

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, HALIFAX Cape Breton Maritime East Coast Placentia Bay Eastern P.E.I. New Brunswick Canso Prince Edward Island

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