While it’s not uncommon for Atlantic hurricanes to inundate Canada’s maritime provinces, it usually happens when storms weaken significantly as they move to colder waters. But Fiona is expected to remain a “strong hurricane-force cyclone,” according to the National Hurricane Center, as outer bands begin to hit land late Friday and remain intense as it pushes into the Gulf of St. Lawrence on Saturday.Read:Seal finally leaves Beverly pond, waddles to police station in middle of night
Projections suggest the storm will be the most intense ever to hit Canada, according to some measures.
“It’s going to be a storm that everyone will remember,” Bob Robichaud, a meteorologist for Canada’s environmental preparedness and climate change preparedness, said at a news conference Thursday.
Fiona’s likely impact on Canada is the latest marker of an Atlantic hurricane season that remained silent during what is typically the heart of storm season, but has since become active. The storm is one of five tropical system meteorologists looking into the Atlantic basin, including one that developed into a tropical depression early Friday and could soon become a threat to the Gulf Coast as Tropical Storm Hermine or Ian.
As of Friday morning, Fiona was about 600 miles south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, heading for Canada’s Maritime Provinces at 35 mph, with winds up to 130 mph at the core. Hurricane conditions are expected to reach the country late Friday night or early Saturday morning.
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Weather models suggest Fiona will likely be the strongest recorded storm, in terms of barometric pressure, to ever hit Canada. Fiona’s central pressure is expected to be below 940 millibars, the existing record, when it makes landfall, likely sometime around daybreak Saturday.
Whether that translates into record winds “that remains to be seen,” Robichaud said, adding that “‘historic’ is a good feature of what this is going to be.”
Hurricane warnings are in effect for most of Nova Scotia, as well as Prince Edward Island and western Newfoundland, where meteorologists predict 3 to 6 inches of rain, with up to 10 inches in some areas, and hurricane-force winds of at least 74 mph. Tropical storm warnings extend from New Brunswick to eastern Quebec to northern Newfoundland, where rainfall can reach 5 inches and winds of at least 39 mph.
While being caught by the polar jet stream, Fiona is expected to lose its tropical features and become a post-tropical cyclone Friday, though that won’t lessen its likely impact. The core of violent winds may weaken somewhat, but the storm will increase in size, with tropical storm winds pounding a large area.Read:Five things Republicans would do in a House majority
Nova Scotia, home to about 1 million people, prepared for the worst of the storm with memories of Hurricane Dorian in 2019 fresh in their minds. That storm caused half a million power outages, most in Nova Scotia, according to the CBC. The wind knocked down trees, destroyed roofs, wharves and boats and knocked over a crane in Halifax, causing an estimated $102 million in damage in Canadian dollars.
Even as Fiona passed Bermuda at a distance of about 185 miles, the island saw widespread power outage and wind gusts of at least 70 km/h.
More than half of Puerto Rico was without power and communities were left cut off by landslides Thursday, days after Fiona battered the island.
Nova Scotia Power warned of widespread power outages, with trees still in full bloom and relatively soft soils. And the blackouts can be prolonged, with crews expected to wait for the wind to die down before they can safely begin repairs, said Dave Pickles, the utility’s chief operating officer.
Flooding and wind damage raise concerns about transportation problems across the province, with a single bridge connecting Cape Breton Island to northern and mainland Nova Scotia, including the densely populated Halifax region, to the south.
“We have one way in and one way out,” said Amanda McDougall, mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. “That causeway is incredibly, incredibly important.”
Other historic storms to hit Canada in recent decades include Hurricane Juan in 2003, which killed eight people, and Igor in 2010, which killed one person and washed away roads and railroads in Newfoundland, leaving communities isolated for days, according to the Canadian Hurricane Center. .
As Fiona looks to Nova Scotia, a look at Canada’s strongest storms of the past
Canada’s Atlantic provinces have historically been on the northern border for Atlantic hurricanes, with storms usually starting to dissipate before making landfall there. But that has changed in recent decades.
According to the country’s Hurricane Center, hurricanes or post-tropical storms of hurricane strength have made landfall once every one to three years since 1951. But as the Atlantic Basin has remained in an active tropical cyclone cycle, that has also meant more threats to Canada, with a hurricane making landfall every two years since 2000.