Weaker Dorian lashes Canada with wind; trail of destruction in North Carolina

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TORONTO — Dorian’s powerful winds arrived on Canada’s Atlantic coast Saturday, toppling a construction crane in Halifax and knocking out power for more than 300,000 people a day after the storm wreaked havoc on North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

Residents of Nova Scotia braced for heavy rainfall and potential flooding along the coast, as officials in Halifax urged people to secure heavy objects that might become projectiles. Businesses were encouraged to close early.

“We do not want the citizens of Halifax roaming downtown as the water is coming in,” said Erica Fleck, assistant chief of community risk reduction in Halifax, the provincial capital and home to 400,000 people.

A crane toppled and crashed into the side of a downtown apartment building under construction. In the city’s south end, a roof was ripped off an apartment complex, and firefighter Jeff Paris said several apartment buildings were being evacuated. Those forced from their homes would be taken to emergency shelters, he said.

Wall of water

As Canada prepared for Dorian, floodwaters receded Saturday from North Carolina’s Outer Banks, leaving behind a muddy trail of destruction. The storm’s worst damage in the U.S. appeared to be on Ocracoke Island, which even in good weather is accessible only by boat or air and is popular with tourists for its undeveloped beaches. Longtime residents who hunkered down to wait out the storm described strong but manageable winds followed by a wall of water that flooded the first floors of many homes and forced some to await rescue from their attics.

“We’re used to cleaning up dead limbs and trash that’s floating around,” said Ocracoke Island resident and business owner Philip Howard. “But now it’s everything: picnic tables, doors, lumber that’s been floating around.”

Howard said by phone Saturday that flooding at his properties on the North Carolina island is 13 inches higher than the levels wrought by a storm in 1944, which he said had long been considered the worst. He raised his home higher than the 1944 flood level and still got water inside.

“It’s overwhelming,” said Howard, who owns the Village Craftsmen, a store that sells handcrafted pottery, glass and kitchen items. He said much of the merchandise on the lower shelves is ruined. Pieces of pottery were floating around inside.

Inside his house, the floorboards were buckling and curling up after being warped by the water, he said.

Gov. Roy Cooper said about 800 people had remained on the island to wait out Dorian. The storm made landfall Friday morning over the Outer Banks as a far weaker storm than the monster that devastated the Bahamas. Yet despite having been downgraded to a Category 1 storm, it still sent seawater surging into homes on Ocracoke, many for the first time in memory.

Evacuees reach Florida

More than 1,100 Bahamians arrived in Palm Beach, Florida, after being evacuated by cruise ship from their hurricane-battered islands.

The Grand Celebration cruise ship returned to its home port after setting sail Thursday for Freeport, Grand Bahama, to deliver more than 112 tons of supplies and ferry dozens of health workers and emergency crews.

As it approached Canada, Dorian briefly strengthened to a Category 2 storm with winds of 100 mph before weakening to a strong Category 1 storm with winds of 93 mph on Saturday afternoon, Canadian officials said.

Forecasters said the center of Dorian was expected to move across Nova Scotia, pass near or over Prince Edward Island, and then move to Newfoundland and Labrador on Sunday.

Canadian officials prepared for the possibility of flooding, washouts and storm surges, and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the military was mobilizing to assist Nova Scotia.

Novia Scotia Power reported more than 306,000 customers were in the dark by 6 p.m., with power out in parts of Halifax, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick.

Hurricanes in Canada are somewhat rare in part because once the storms reach colder Canadian waters, they lose their main source of energy. Canadian Hurricane Centre meteorologist Ian Hubbard said the last hurricanes to make landfall in Canada were Hurricane Igor and Hurricane Earl in September, 2010.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Dorian was officially a post-tropical cyclone, not a hurricane, though it still packed hurricane-force winds.

While tropical-storm force winds buffeted southeastern Massachusetts and could sweep into Maine later Saturday, hurricane-force winds were unlikely to pose any threat to land in the U.S.

In North Carolina, the governor said officials were aware of no serious injuries on the Outer Banks from the storm. About 200 people were in shelters and 57,000 without power as of mid-day Saturday, according to the governor’s office. Emergency officials transported fuel trucks, generators, food and water to Okracoke.

At least four deaths in the Southeast were blamed on Dorian. All were men in Florida or North Carolina who died in falls or by electrocution while trimming trees, putting up storm shutters or otherwise getting ready for the hurricane. North Carolina’s governor on Saturday urged returning residents to be vigilant, as many of the injuries and deaths from previous storms happened during the cleanup process.

No power on island

Dorian slammed the Bahamas at the start of the week with 185 mph winds, killing at least 43 people and obliterating countless homes. From there, it swept past Florida and Georgia, then sideswiped the Carolinas on Thursday, spinning off tornadoes that peeled away roofs and flipped vehicles.

Still, the damage was far less than feared in many parts of the Carolinas, including historic Charleston, South Carolina, which is prone to flooding even from ordinary storms, and Wilmington, North Carolina, the state’s biggest coastal city.

Ocracoke resident and restaurant owner Jason Wells said he lost three vehicles and a golf cart to floodwaters, and he has $5,000 worth of food in a freezer on an island that still lacks power. He said by text message Saturday that he and family members were already bleaching and disinfecting their houses, but he feared weeks could pass before electricity returned to most houses because of wiring problems caused by floodwaters. “We are a close knit community. We will power on,” Wells wrote.

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