Canadians are bracing for what could be the strongest storm to ever hit their country’s coast.
“Every Nova Scotian should prepare today and prepare for impact,” John Lohr, minister responsible for the Provincial Emergency Management Office, said at a press conference Thursday.
Hurricane Fiona has hit the Caribbean, is expected to pass Bermuda as a dangerous Category 3 storm and shows no signs of abating before hitting Canada on Saturday morning.
“This could be Canada’s version of (Hurricane) Sandy,” said Chris Fogarty, meteorologist for the Canadian Hurricane Center, noting Fiona’s size and intensity and its combination of hurricane and storm characteristics. winter. Hurricane Sandy affected 24 states and the entire east coast, causing damage estimated at $78.7 billion.
Fiona was about 1,200 miles southwest of Halifax, Nova Scotia on Thursday morning, and the region is already bracing for a rare and historic impact.
“Please take it seriously as we see weather numbers on our weather maps that are rarely seen here,” Fogarty said.
Lohr of the Nova Scotia Emergency Management Office said the storm could be “very dangerous” for the province.
“The storm is expected to bring severe and damaging gusty winds, very high waves and coastal storm surges, intense and dangerous precipitation and prolonged power outages,” Lohr said Thursday. “It’s time to get ready before Fiona arrives tomorrow night.”
The lowest pressure on record in Canada was 940 millibars in January 1977 in Newfoundland, said Brian Tang, professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Albany. “Current weather forecast models indicate that Fiona will make landfall in eastern Nova Scotia with pressure around 925 to 935 millibars, which would easily set a new record high,” he said.
A pressure of 920 to 944 millibars is typically found in a Category 4 hurricane.
Many forecasters, including Fogarty, compare this storm to Hurricane Juan in 2003, which hit the Canadian coast as a Category 2 storm.
“This storm was much smaller. This one is huge,” Fogarty said.
Hurricane-force winds from the storm extend 70 miles in either direction from its center – and tropical-storm-force winds extend more than 200 miles. A path 140 miles wide could experience hurricane-force winds, and an area over 400 miles wide could experience tropical-storm-force winds.
And Fiona could grow even bigger by the time the storm hits Canada, according to Tang.
What Fiona could bring
Fiona is expected to reach Atlantic Canada on Friday evening, and the region will begin to experience deteriorating conditions earlier in the day.
“Fiona is purely a hurricane right now. As it begins to interact with a cold weather system and a jet stream, it will develop into a super storm with the characteristics of both a powerful hurricane and a a powerful fall cyclone with hurricane-force winds, very heavy rain, and large storm surges and waves,” Tang explained.
The National Hurricane Center predicts the storm “will continue to produce hurricane-force winds as it crosses Nova Scotia and moves into the Gulf of St. Lawrence.” In fact, the storm could still carry winds of over 100 mph when it slams ashore.
Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and western Newfoundland could receive up to 6 inches of rain, with some areas receiving up to 10 inches. This could lead to major flash floods.
“We want people to take this very seriously and prepare for a long period of utility outages and structural damage to buildings,” Fogarty explained.
Life-threatening storm surge and large waves are forecast for the area.
Mike Savage, the mayor of Halifax Regional Municipality, Nova Scotia’s capital, warned wave watchers and surfers to stay away from coastal areas, adding that people who live near the coast “must be prepared to move on short notice and pay close attention to possible evacuation orders.”
“Across the Halifax area, you should be prepared for falling trees, extended power outages and local flooding,” the mayor added.
Cape Breton Regional Municipality Mayor Amanda McDougall said officials are preparing and working to keep residents safe as the area is in the “direct impact zone.”
“We need to make sure there is a hub where people can get to before the storm hits, because we know there are different types of housing that won’t be able to withstand winds, floods, the way other buildings can,” McDougall said.
Some of the waves on the eastern parts of the Gulf of St. Lawrence could be greater than 39 feet, and the western Gulf will see northern waves up to 26 feet in places, which will likely cause significant erosion on northern beaches. of Prince Edward Island, the Canadian Hurricane Center said.
The hurricane center also warns of coastal flooding, especially during high tide.
It has been about 50 years since such an intense storm affected Nova Scotia and Cape Breton. Both of these storms were winter storms – in 1974 and 1976, Fogarty said. Many people won’t even remember these two storms, so forecasters are trying to send a clear message to residents to prepare.
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