Sandy starting to weaken, but storm still bringing more rain, wind

TORONTO - A superstorm that hammered parts of Central and Eastern Canada with high winds and heavy rain started petering out Tuesday, though its effects will still be felt for days.

TORONTO – A superstorm that hammered parts of Central and Eastern Canada with high winds and heavy rain started petering out Tuesday, though its effects will still be felt for days.

Post-tropical storm Sandy began to weaken as it churned further inland after lashing the U.S. East Coast, leaving more than 45 people there dead and millions without power and transit.

In Canada the storm brought strong winds and rain to southern Ontario and Quebec and promised a high amount of precipitation for the Maritimes. By Tuesday afternoon the storm had lost its post-tropical characteristics.

At its height Sandy left 150,000 customers without power in Ontario, 50,000 in the dark in Quebec and 14,000 in Nova Scotia.

High winds continued to whip southern Ontario, particularly around Sarnia, and Quebec City, and warnings for gusts of up to 100 kilometres per hour remain in place for those regions. The Bluewater Bridge border crossing in Sarnia saw closures for truck traffic during Tuesday morning.

A woman was killed in Toronto after she was hit by a falling store sign.

The strongest wind gust reported in Toronto was 91 km/h, reported at the city’s downtown island airport, according to preliminary data from the Canadian Hurricane Centre.

The strongest gust in the province was 106 kilometres an hour on Western Island in Georgian Bay, according to the centre. In Quebec, gusts reached 87 km/h in Laval and Orleans.

On Tuesday night, northeastern Ontario was bracing for Sandy, which was to hit the area with snow, mixed with ice pellets, and patchy freezing rain driven by gusts of up to 60 kilometres per hour.

Ontario Provincial Police were advising residents in the path of the storm to keep their cellphones charged and have a three-day emergency kit ready.

The most precipitation from Sandy came in the Charlevoix region of Quebec, where 55 millimetres of rain fell.

The Maritimes could see more than 50 millimetres of rain through Wednesday as Sandy moves east, but most of its precipitation will be from an unrelated system on Sandy’s fringes, according to Environment Canada.

Warning preparedness meteorologist Geoff Coulson said the worst may appear to have passed for most of the central and eastern provinces, but the clouds aren’t parting just yet.

“It’s going to continue to linger because of the slow-moving nature of the storm at this point,” he said.

“We’re still going to be dealing with on and off shower activity through much of southern Ontario and southern Quebec during the course of the next few days.”

The storm — which was centred over western Pennsylvania late Tuesday morning — is expected to drift north then east, fading away over the St. Lawrence Valley on Thursday, Coulson said.

“For the trick-or-treaters (Wednesday) evening — still dealing with that on-off shower activity and at least in southern Ontario temperatures a little cooler than seasonal by the time the kids head out,” he said.

Sandy began its path of destruction in the Caribbean, where 69 people were killed.

New York was among the hardest hit in the U.S., with its financial heart closed for a second day and seawater cascading into the still-gaping construction pit at the World Trade Center.

The storm caused the worst damage in the 108-year history of New York’s subway system, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it could be four or five days before the biggest U.S. transit system was running again.

In New Jersey, Seaside rail lines were washed away and parts of the coast were still under water. President Barack Obama declared a major disaster in New York and Long Island, making federal funding available to residents of the area.

He is set to travel Wednesday to storm-stricken New Jersey to view damage and thank first responders.

Airports remained closed across the U.S. East Coast and far beyond as tens of thousands of travellers found they couldn’t get where they were going. Flight cancellations were rampant at airports across Canada, with trips called off to cities in the U.S. northeast and beyond.