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Newfoundland hit by winter storm, some ferries cancelled due to high seas

Part of a hardware store's roof is shown against the side of a building in this photo provide by Terry Osmond after high winds in Port-aux-Basque, Newfoundland on Monday Dec. 25, 2017. Gusts reached up to 120 kilometres per hour in the community in recent days, and the ferries between Channel-Port aux Basques, N.L., and North Sydney, N.S. cancelled service due to rough weather in the Cabot Strait. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Terry Osmond

Part of a hardware store's roof is shown against the side of a building in this photo provide by Terry Osmond after high winds in Port-aux-Basque, Newfoundland on Monday Dec. 25, 2017. Gusts reached up to 120 kilometres per hour in the community in recent days, and the ferries between Channel-Port aux Basques, N.L., and North Sydney, N.S. cancelled service due to rough weather in the Cabot Strait. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Terry Osmond

PORT AUX BASQUES, N.L. — The winds in Channel-Port aux Basques on Newfoundland's southwestern coast often blow hard, but trucker Terry Osmond says he can't remember a holiday weekend when the gusts have hit his town with such force.

"It's terrible," he said Wednesday, as he drove his fuel truck just kilometres from the port where the Marine Atlantic ferry that runs to Nova Scotia was tied up due to high seas.

"We've been at it for the past three days now, and we've had blizzard conditions at times," said Osmond, 57.

As he made his deliveries on Wednesday, he took photos of the damage, including roofing that blew off the local Home Hardware store and siding that was detached from buildings.

"I don't remember wind like this in years," he said. "But the power stayed on. We're lucky for the power."

Much of Newfoundland and Labrador was under wind or blizzard warnings on Wednesday, and Marine Atlantic ferry service between Port aux Basques and North Sydney, N.S., was cancelled.

The ferry service was advising passengers to check its website for updates on when travel would resume, with crossings delayed until Thursday, according to website postings as of 10 a.m. local time.

Darrell Mercer, a spokesman for Marine Atlantic, said in an interview the ferry hadn't sailed on Christmas Day, Boxing Day or Wednesday.

However, Mercer said the ferry service managed to transport 1,773 passengers in a 24-hour period before the rough weather shut down the holiday weekend crossings.

There are 269 passengers booked out of North Sydney and 234 passengers booked in Port aux Basques for the next crossing, he said.

"Those numbers will grow as we move into New Year's traffic and stores will push to get supplies for the festivities ... We want to get back in operation as soon as we can and we're just waiting for a break in the weather," he said.

Relatively few crossings were cancelled due to weather earlier in the fall, but since December three major storm systems moved through the strait, causing delays and cancellations, he said.

Environment Canada was reporting flurries and snow squalls combined with winds gusting to 110 kilometres per hour in some parts of Newfoundland and Labrador on Wednesday.

The windchills were in the minus 20 Celsius range.

The only area not under warnings was the Buchans and the interior region in the centre of the province.

The RCMP in Deer Lake was warning that travel conditions were bad, with high winds causing white-out conditions on the highways.

Environment Canada said conditions were expected to improve Wednesday night as winds shift to the northwest and begin to ease.

— Story by Michael Tutton in Halifax.

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