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Most intense storm on the planet pounding Newfoundland and Labrador, say officials

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Newfoundland and Labrador is in the throes of the “most intense storm” on the planet, according to a meteorologist in Gander.

Wild, whipping winds gusting upwards of 130 km/h are causing huge waves, delays, cancellations and closures across the province.

“[It’s] not fun to be out in, or drive anywhere in,” said Tabea Fiechter, a meteorologist with the weather office in Gander.

According to Newfoundland Power, there are 12,000 customers in the province without power because of severe weather and winds.

Red symbols indicate outages affecting 1,000 or more customers. Orange indicates 200-1,000 customers affected. (Newfoundland Power)

Trees have blown over into power lines and whiteout conditions are making repairs difficult, said Michele Coughlan, a Newfoundland Power representative.

“It’s not just one or two trees, it’s seven trees, five trees. And as you get one tree removed the crews are finding that there are other trees that have come into line.”

In St. John’s, flying debris has shut down Prince Philip Drive from Westerland Road to Morrissey Road.

Environment Canada has issued wind warnings for most of the Avalon, with storm surge warnings affecting the northeast and east coasts of the peninsula. 

More exposed areas of the northeast Avalon coast like Bonavista and Twillingate are ducking under sustained winds of 100 km/h and gusts of 140 km/h, Fiechter said.

With that wind, nine-metre-high waves are pounding that coastline, she said.

“[There is] definitely potential for damage in those areas.”

Out in the Grand Banks, she said those waves are reaching 11 metres.

The Northern Peninsula and west coast of the island are under winter storm warnings.

Wind warnings have been issued for Makkovik and Rigolet, while the rest of the Labrador coast braces under winter storm warnings.

Many flights at the St. John’s International Airport, the Gander Airport and the Deer Lake airport are cancelled or delayed.

Marine Atlantic has cancelled its crossings for the day, and Labrador Marine says the Apollo ferry will likely stay tied up today as well. 

All schools in Gander and Corner Brook have also been closed for the morning, and many schools in Labrador, central Newfoundland and the Avalon region have been delayed for the morning.

For the latest updates on closures, delays and cancellations, check out our Newfoundland Storm Centre and our Labrador Storm Centre.

Blowing snow

The west coast has seen a bit of snow, most notably in areas in higher elevations around Marble Mountain and Deer Lake, she said.

The concern is not the accumulation, which she said will be minimal, but the effects of the wind on that snow.

“It doesn’t take a lot of snow with this kind of wind to really reduce visibility,” she said.

There is a blowing snow advisory for Gander, and drivers in Twillingate and Bonavista will also have a tough time seeing the road ahead, she said.

Winds to subside Thursday night

Winds will start to die down Thursday afternoon in most areas, Fietcher said, but only slightly — those exposed areas along the northeast Avalon coast will still have gusts up to 110 km/h throughout the afternoon.

Throughout the night, she said, winds will stay gusting between 50 km/h and 80 km/h, and will then start slowing down. 

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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The ‘Maple Majestic’ wants to be Canada’s homegrown Tesla

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Look out Tesla, Canada has a homegrown electric sedan on the way. Well, that’s if AK International Motor Corporation can drum up enough investment to make its EV a reality. Dubbed the “Maple Majestic,” the vehicle is a battery-electric designed to “excel in extreme climate performance without adversely affecting the climate, as befits a vehicle from Canada,” according to its website.

What’s in a name? — The company says the maple leaf is a “symbol of Canada’s warmth and friendliness towards all cultures,” while “majestic” refers to the country’s “status as a Constitutional Monarchy.”

That patriotism carries over into Maple Majestic’s parent company’s lofty goals. AK Motor founder Arkadiusz Kaminski says he wants the company, which he founded in 2012, to become “Canada’s first multi-brand automotive OEM,” and that the “Maple Majestic is intended to be Canada’s flagship brand of automobiles on the world stage.”

Partnerships are key — “We acknowledge that the best chance for the Maple Majestic brand to succeed, lies in continuing to build the relationship with Canada’s parts suppliers and technological innovators, whether they be academic institutions, corporations, or individual inventors,” the company explains. “We are currently seeking partners in automotive engineering, parts manufacturing, automotive assembly, electric propulsion technology, battery technology, autonomous technology, and hybrid power generation technology.”

In other words, don’t expect to be able to buy a Maple Majestic any time soon… and don’t expect to pour over 0-60 mph times, power output, range, or other key stats, because those don’t currently exist. For now, all we have are pictures and a short video clip. But at least those are arresting.

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PE-backed Quorum Software to merge with Canadian energy tech firm

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Houston-based energy technology company Quorum Software will merge with a Canadian tech firm to bolster its presence in oil and gas services.

Quorum announced Feb. 15 it plans to merge with Calgary, Alberta-based Aucerna, a global provider of planning, execution and reserves software for the energy sector. The combined firm will operate under the Quorum Software brand.

Gene Austin, CEO of Quorum Software, will continue in his capacity as chief executive of the combined firm. Austin, former CEO of Austin-based marketing tech firm Bazaarvoice Inc., became CEO of Quorum in December 2018.

Aucerna co-founder and CEO Wayne Sim will be appointed to the Quorum Software board of directors. Both companies are backed by San Francisco- and Chicago-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo.

“Over the last 20 years, Quorum has become the leading innovator of software deployed by North American energy companies,” said Austin. “Today, Quorum is expanding the scope of our technology and expertise to all energy-producing regions of the globe. Customers everywhere will have access to a cloud technology ecosystem that connects decision-ready data from operations to the boardroom.”

In addition to the merger announcement, Quorum Software announced it had entered into an agreement with Finnish IT firm TietoEvry to purchase TietoEvry’s entire oil and gas business. The agreement, which includes hydrocarbon management, personnel and material logistics software and related services, is valued at 155 million euros, or $188 million, according to a statement from TietoEvry.

“Our three organizations complement each other — from the software that our great people design to the energy markets where we operate,” said Sim. “Our new company will be able to deliver value to our stakeholders, while accelerating the growth of our combined business and the energy industry’s software transformation.”

The combined company will serve over 1,800 energy companies in 55 countries, according to the announcement. With its headquarters in Houston, Quorum will continue to have a significant presence in Calgary and in Norway, the headquarters for TietoEvry’s oil and gas software business. Quorum will have other offices throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

As of Sept. 30, 2020, private equity firm Thoma Bravo had more than $73 billion in assets under management. In late December 2020, Thoma Bravo agreed to acquire Richardson, Texas-based tech firm RealPage in a roughly $10 billion acquisition.

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Piece of Kitchener technology lands on Mars on Perseverance rover

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KITCHENER — A piece of Kitchener technology has landed on Mars, thanks to NASA’s Perseverance rover.

The rover settled on the planet’s surface on Thursday afternoon. It’s been travelling through space since it was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in July.

“The whole idea of being on a device that we’re sending to another plant with the express mission of looking for traces of past life, it’s pretty mind boggling actually,” said Rafal Pawluczyk, chief technical officer for FiberTech Optica.

The Kitchener-based company made fibre optic cables for the rover’s SuperCam that will examine samples with a camera, laser and spectrometers.

“The cables that we built take the light from that multiplexer and deliver it to each spectrograph,” Pawluczyk said.

The cables connect a device on the rover to the SuperCam, which will be used to examine rock and soil samples, to spectrometers. They’ll relay information from one device to another.

The project started four years ago with a connection to Los Alamos National Lab, where the instruments connected to the cables were developed.

“We could actually demonstrate we can design something that will meet their really hard engineering requirements,” Pawluczyk said.

The Jezero Crater is where the Perseverance rover, with FiberTech Optica’s technology onboard, landed Thursday. Scientists believe it was once flooded with water and is the best bet for finding any evidence of life. FiberTech’s cables will help that in that search.

Ioannis Haranas, an astrophysicist and professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the rover isn’t looking for “green men.”

“They’re looking for microbial, single-cell life, any type of fossils and stuff like that,” Haranas said. “That’s why they chose a special landing site. This could be very fertile land for that.”

“It’s very ambitious,” said Ralf Gellert, a physics professor at the University of Guelph.

Gellert helped with previous rover missions and said it’s the first time a Mars rover has landed without a piece of Guelph technology on it. While he’s not part of Perseverance’s mission, he said the possibilities are exciting.

“Every new landing site is a new piece of the puzzle that you can put together with the new results that we have from the other landing sites,” he said.

“It’s scientifically very interesting because, even though we don’t have an instrument on that rover, we can compare what the new rover Perseverance finds at this new landing site,” he said.

Now that Perseverance has landed on Mars, FiberTech is looking ahead to its next possible mission into space.

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