Atlantic Canada braces for hurricane Bill as powerful storm moves northward

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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HALIFAX - James Burchill has seen his share of tropical storms muscle their way up the East Coast and jostle his Halifax home, and he's confident he's prepared for the arrival Sunday of hurricane Bill, having bought a new can opener.
"Later on today, I'm going to get a few cans of stew and this sort of thing," the reserved, bearded man in a Tilley hat said Friday as he strolled downtown under bright sunshine.
"Last time we had a storm like this, all I had was an electric can opener, which was a bit of a problem. Now I have a manual can-opener."
Burchill, displaying a quirky resolve typical of Maritimers, said he was aware of the danger posed by Bill, which was expected to lash Nova Scotia's Atlantic coast with 150 kilometre per hour winds and up to 150 millimetres of rain before moving on to Newfoundland.
"Most of the time they blow past ... but they can do a lot of damage."
On the other side of Halifax harbour, at the Canadian Hurricane Centre, program supervisor Peter Bowyer stood in front of a large weather map, warning that Bill is a big, brawny menace that will bring severe weather to every Atlantic province.
"We want everyone in Atlantic Canada to be ready for visitation of a Category 1 hurricane," he said, referring to a storm that churns out winds in excess of 120 km/h.
Bowyer said Bill was expected to enter Canadian waters southwest of Nova Scotia as a large, Category 2 hurricane, its massive spiral of clouds hurling out winds over 154 km/h.
However, he said the storm had lost some of its strength Friday, which prompted Environment Canada to predict Bill would sweep south of Nova Scotia as a Category 1 hurricane.
"I'm very concerned," he told a news conference. "Category 1 and Category 2, it can bring a lot of grief if it reaches the coastline."
He said it was too early to predict which communities would bear the brunt of the storm, but he warned that Bill could be particularly violent along the eastern edge of mainland Nova Scotia, southwestern Cape Breton and Newfoundland's Burin Peninsula and Placentia Bay.
A Category 1 hurricane, as defined by the Saffir-Simpson scale, can hurl objects at a maximum of 153 km/h, while uprooting trees, tearing down electrical lines and toppling utility poles.
With Bill's swirling tentacles extending more than 700 km on Friday, Bowyer was quick to stress that even southern New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and eastern Newfoundland would likely be battered by heavy rainfall of up to 150 mm and gale-force winds of at least 60 km/h.
"People need to be prepared," Bowyer said, adding that Bill will start to transform into a post-tropical storm early Sunday, a complex process that will make it more unpredictable.
Hurricanes are no strangers to the region, which has been hit by one or two dangerous, damaging tropical storms every year since 2000.
Kyle struck the south coast of Nova Scotia last year, Gustav pounded southern Cape Breton in 2002 and Hortense took a similar path to Bill in 1996, making landfall along Nova Scotia's eastern shore.
"It's nothing out of the ordinary," Bowyer said of Bill, "other than it's heading towards us."
In 2003, hurricane Juan ripped through Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and parts of New Brunswick. The Category 2 hurricane caused $100 million in damage.
Seven deaths were linked to the storm, which delivered sudden gusts hitting 185 km/h.
In Halifax, Bill's steady approach was having an impact Friday.
Sebastein Hustear, a university student visiting from Germany, had planned to take the ferry linking Yarmouth, N.S., and Portland, Maine, on Sunday, hoping to eventually travel to Boston and New York.
"I don't know what to do if the ferry doesn't go," he said. "I'm quite puzzled."
The high-speed ferry service, known as the Cat, cancelled Sunday's runs.
Bill's threatening advance also prompted Exxonmobil to evacuate its Sable offshore natural gas production platform off Nova Scotia. Spokesman Merle MacIsaac said there were 200 people aboard the rig completing summer maintenance.
Mark Perry, a federal public servant, said he and his family were well-prepared for severe weather, having already bought batteries for flashlights, extra water and propane for the barbecue.
"If we have to resort to making hotdogs and hamburgers, then we can use that for some extra food," he said, while enjoying a snack on the Halifax waterfront. "We're concerned enough that we're going to tie things down, move the lawn furniture into a safer spot."
The damage from the powerful storms that touched down in southern Ontario a day earlier, killing an 11-year-old boy, served as a reminder for Perry to be prepared.
"It makes you realize that these kind of weather events can really have some serious effects on property and people."
Bill was expected to produce ocean swells up to three metres high along Nova Scotia's eastern shore, starting Saturday, and growing up to eight metres on Sunday.
"In the past, when we've talked about these kind of waves, it's almost been like a fatal attraction to people to say, 'Let's get the kids in the car and go to the coast and see the big waves,"' said Bowyer.
"We don't want anybody to be doing that."

Organizations: Canadian Hurricane Centre, Environment Canada

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, HALIFAX, Atlantic Canada Newfoundland East Coast Cape Breton New Brunswick Prince Edward Island Placentia Bay Germany Yarmouth Portland, Maine Boston New York Southern Ontario

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