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Flooding in Atlantic Canada due to strong winds, heavy rain

Sheldon Tingley looks at his his flattened car in a parking lot behind an apartment building on Willow Street in Windsor, N.S., Tuesday December 14, 2010.

Tim Krochak/Tim Krochak/The Halifax Herald Limited/The Canadian Press

Powerful winds and rain battered the Maritimes on Tuesday, partially tearing off the roof of a retirement home, knocking out power for tens of thousands of people and causing New Brunswick's St. John River to swell near its banks.

The storm dumped a deluge of water in St. Stephen, N.B., located on the U.S. border with Maine, where town officials had to temporarily declare a state of emergency.

"Everybody I've spoken to say they've never seen flooding like this in St. Stephen ... the Charlotte Mall, the entire mall area was flooded," said town manager John Ferguson.

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Mr. Ferguson said a "large swath of water" had covered an area near the downtown core and water levels in a nearby river had risen about two metres.

He said the main road leading to two border crossings with the U.S. was washed out along with several others.

"One-third of the road caved in and there was a significant amount of run-off that had been going over the road for several hours," said Mr. Ferguson. "The road looks good, what's left, but we really don't know what it's like underneath."

Mr. Ferguson said he had at least one report of a boat being used to rescue people from one home on the outskirts of the town.

Town officials lifted the state of emergency later Tuesday after waters began to recede.

Areas of western New Brunswick had been told to brace for up to 130 millimetres of rain as the storm passed through the province Monday and Tuesday.

Karl Wilmot, a spokesman for New Brunswick's Emergency Measures Organization, said excess water was being allowed to pass through the Mactaquac Dam on the St. John River in the Fredericton area.

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He said dams on the river don't have the ability to store water.

"Once that capacity has been reached, they have no choice but to let the water go," he said.

Elsewhere in New Brunswick, the Red Cross said at least 40 people were evacuated from several dozen homes north of Fredericton due to flooding caused by rainfall in communities including Burtts Corner and Nashwaak Bridge.

Help was also provided to several people in the Fredericton and Perth-Andover areas who were forced to flee basement-level apartments because of flooding.

Several roads were closed and a state of emergency was also declared in the village of McAdam, where heavy flooding affected several homes.

Ramona Jennex, Nova Scotia's minister of emergency management, said there were no reports of localized flooding in her province. But high winds caused problems, downing trees and power lines.

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"We haven't had an issue at this particular point with flooding, but there is a possibility," she said in an interview Tuesday.

Environment Canada issued wind warnings across the region, with gusts in the range of 100 kilometres an hour or more expected in many places and up to 140 km/h in western Cape Breton.

By late Tuesday morning, weather warnings had been lifted in both provinces, except in eastern Nova Scotia, where strong winds and heavy rain were expected to persist into Wednesday. Forecasters were expecting between 100 and 130 millimetres of rain to fall in Cape Breton before the storm passed.

In Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley, the Red Cross said it was assisting residents of Kingsway Gardens, a retirement residence in Windsor, after a partial roof collapse.

Thirteen residents were safely evacuated from the facility.

"A part of the roof structure gave way around midnight," Red Cross spokesman Dan Bedell said. "There were no injuries, luckily."

A voluntary evacuation was conducted at a mobile home park in New Minas, N.S., after several homes were hit by falling tree limbs.

At one point during the storm, Nova Scotia Power reported more than 80,000 customers had lost electricity, 12,000 were without power in New Brunswick.

In some places in Nova Scotia, including the northern mainland and Cape Breton, the utility estimated it could be late Wednesday morning before the lights come back on.

Patty Faith, a spokeswoman for the utility, said it was difficult for some crews to reach remote areas, particularly because of strong winds.

The province's Emergency Management Office advised storm watchers to keep a safe distance from risky areas.

"It's always a concern when we have storms that people like to watch the wave action," said Ms. Jennex.

"We're asking people to be very mindful, keep away from the coastline. The sea is very unpredictable."

The high winds also caused travel disruptions, with several flights either cancelled or delayed at Halifax Stanfield International Airport.

Travel restrictions were also in place for some traffic on the Confederation Bridge between New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

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