Deadly Hurricane Fiona upgraded to a Category 4 storm as it tracked toward Canada’s Atlantic coast, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Officials in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island in Canada are urging those in the storm’s path to be on high alert and prepare for the impact of the hurricane, which has already claimed the lives of at least five people and knocked out power to millions this week as it battered several Caribbean islands.
“Air Force hurricane hunters investigated the major hurricane and found that it remains powerful and very significant,” the center said in an update Friday morning.
“This could be a landmark event for Canada in terms of tropical cyclone intensity,” and it could even become Canada’s version of Super Hurricane Sandy, said Chris Fogarty, director of the Canadian Hurricane Center. Hurricane Sandy affected 24 states and the entire east coast, causing damage estimated at $78.7 billion.
“It has the potential to be very dangerous,” said John Lohr, the minister responsible for the Provincial Office of Emergency Management. “The impacts should be felt across the province. Every Nova Scotian should prepare today,” Lohr added in an official update Thursday.
Residents should prepare for damaging winds, high waves, coastal storm surges and heavy rains that can cause extended power outages, Lohr said. Emergency officials encouraged people to secure outdoor items, trim trees, charge cellphones and create a 72-hour emergency kit.
The region hasn’t seen such an intense storm in about 50 years, according to Chris Fogarty, director of the Canadian Hurricane Centre.
“Please take it seriously as we see weather numbers on our weather maps that are rarely seen here,” Fogarty said.
Utility company Nova Scotia Power activated an emergency operations center (EOC) Friday morning that will serve as a central coordination area for restoration and outage response, according to a news release.
The company will also work closely with the Nova Scotia Emergency Management Office.
“We are taking every precaution and will be prepared to respond to Hurricane Fiona in the safest and most efficient manner possible,” Sean Borden, senior storm coordinator for Nova Scotia Power, said in the statement.
“Once Fiona passes through Bermuda, the storm is expected to make landfall in Nova Scotia by Saturday afternoon. Fiona will go extratropical before impact, but that won’t do much to prevent the damage Fiona will cause. “, explained CNN meteorologist Robert Shackelford.
Across Atlantic Canada, winds could be around 100 mph (160 km/h) as Fiona makes landfall in Nova Scotia, Shackelford said.
Bermuda, which was under a tropical storm warning, closed schools and government offices on Friday, according to Michael Weeks, the island’s national security minister.
In Canada, hurricane warnings are in place for Nova Scotia from Hubbards to Brule and Newfoundland from Parson’s Pond to Francois. Prince Edward Island and Île-de-la-Madeleine are also subject to warnings.
Prince Edward Island officials are pleading with residents to prepare for the worst as the storm looms.
Tanya Mullally, who serves as the province’s chief emergency officer, said one of the most pressing concerns with Fiona is the historic storm surge it is expected to unleash.
“Storm surge is definitely going to be significant. … Flooding that we haven’t seen and can’t measure,” Mullally said in an update Thursday.
Modeling from the Canadian Hurricane Center suggests the surge “depending on the area, could be 1.8 to 2.4 meters (6-8 feet),” said Bob Robichaud, a meteorologist at the center.
The northern part of the island is expected to bear the brunt of the storm due to the direction of the winds, which will likely cause property damage and coastal flooding, Mullally said.
All provincial campgrounds, beaches and day-use parks as well as the Shubenacadie Wildlife Park will close at noon on Friday, the Nova Scotia Office of Emergency Management announced.
“Safety is our priority as we prepare for significant storm conditions Friday evening and Saturday. We are closing provincial park properties for the storm and will reopen when it is safe,” said the Minister of Natural Resources and of Renewable Energy, Tory Rushton, in a statement announcing the closures.
Fiona’s blackouts continue
Earlier this week, Fiona damaged homes and disrupted critical power and water infrastructure for millions of people in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Days after Puerto Rico experienced an island-wide blackout as Fiona made landfall on Sunday, only 38% of customers regained power on Thursday, according to power grid operator LUMA Energy.
The massive power outage comes as much of Puerto Rico experiences extreme heat, which sent temperatures soaring to 112 degrees Thursday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.
Daniel Hernández, director of renewable projects at LUMA, explained that critical locations, including hospitals, will be prioritized before repairs can begin at the individual level.
“It’s a normal process. The important thing is for everyone to be calm…we’re working to get 100% of customers served as soon as possible,” Hernández said.
Nearly 360,000 customers were experiencing intermittent water service or no service at all on Thursday night, according to the government’s emergency portal system.
As of Wednesday, more than 800 people were staying in dozens of shelters across the island, according to Puerto Rico Housing Secretary William Rodriguez.
President Joe Biden has approved a major disaster declaration for the US territory, FEMA has said. The move allows residents to access grants for temporary housing and home repairs as well as low-interest loans to cover uninsured property losses.
In the Dominican Republic, Fiona has affected 8,708 households and destroyed 2,262 homes, according to the country’s emergency operations chief, Major General Juan Méndez García.
He said more than 210,000 homes and businesses were still in the dark on Thursday morning and another 725,246 customers were without running water.
“It was something incredible that we had never seen before,” Ramona Santana in Higüey, Dominican Republic, told CNN en Español this week. “We’re on the streets with nothing, no food, no shoes, no clothes, just what’s on our backs. … We have nothing. We have God, and hope that help will come. “
Fiona also threatened parts of the Turks and Caicos Islands on Tuesday, and areas of British territory were still without power earlier this week, including Grand Turk, South Caicos, Salt Cay, North Caicos and Middle Caicos, Anya Williams said. acting governor of the islands.
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