While it’s not uncommon for Atlantic hurricanes to make landfall in the Maritime provinces of Canada, this usually happens when the storms are significantly weakened as they move into cooler waters. But Fiona is expected to remain a “powerful hurricane-force cyclone,” according to the National Hurricane Center, as its outer bands begin to hit the country late Friday and remain intense as it moves into the Gulf of St. Lawrence on Saturday.
Projections suggest that, by some metrics, the storm will be the most intense on record to hit Canada.
“This is going to be a storm that everyone will remember,” Bob Robichaud, warning preparedness meteorologist for Environment and Climate Change Canada, said at a news conference Thursday.
Fiona’s likely impact on Canada is the latest marker of an Atlantic hurricane season that remained calm during what is usually the height of storm season but has since become active. The storm is one of five tropical system meteorologists monitoring the Atlantic Basin, including one that organized into a tropical depression early Friday and could soon become a threat to the Gulf Coast as Tropical Storm Hermine or Ian. .
On Friday morning, Fiona was about 600 miles south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, heading for the Maritime provinces of Canada at a speed of 35 mph, with winds up to 130 mph in its center. Hurricane conditions are expected to reach the country by late Friday evening or early Saturday morning.
This is what the waves of Hurricane Fiona looked like, from the top of a 50ft wave
Weather models suggest that 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 the existing record 940 millibars when it makes landfall, likely around dawn on Saturday.
Whether that translates to record gusts “remains to be seen,” Robichaud said, adding that “‘historic’ is a good feature of what it’s going to be.”
Hurricane warnings are in effect for most of Nova Scotia as well as Prince Edward Island and western Newfoundland, where meteorologists are forecasting 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 east of Quebec to northern Newfoundland, where rainfall could reach 5 inches and winds of at least 39 mph.
Fiona is expected to lose its tropical characteristics and become a post-tropical cyclone on Friday, although this will not lessen its likely impact. Although its core of high winds may weaken somewhat, the storm will increase in size, with tropical storm-force winds buffeting a wide area.
Nova Scotia, home to about 1 million people, was preparing for the worst of the storm with memories of Hurricane Dorian in 2019 fresh in many minds. This storm caused half a million power outages, most of them in Nova Scotia, according to the CBC. Its winds toppled trees, destroyed roofs, docks and boats and toppled a crane in Halifax, causing damage estimated at C$102 million.
Even as Fiona passed Bermuda at a distance of about 185 miles, the island saw widespread power outages and gusts of at least 70 mph.
More than half of Puerto Rico was left without power and communities remained cut off by landslides on Thursday, days after Fiona battered the island.
Nova Scotia Power warned of widespread power outages, with trees still in full bloom and relatively soft ground. And the outages could drag on, with crews having to wait for the winds to subside before they can safely begin repairs, said utility chief operating officer Dave Pickles.
Flooding and wind damage are raising concerns about transportation issues across the province, with a single bridge linking Cape Breton Island to the north and mainland Nova Scotia, including the region populated by Halifax to the south.
“We have an entrance and an exit,” said Amanda McDougall, mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. “This causeway is incredibly, incredibly important.”
Other notable 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 roads and railroads ashore. -Newfoundland and left isolated communities for days, according to the Canadian Hurricane Center. .
The Atlantic provinces of Canada have historically been at the northern limit of Atlantic hurricanes, with storms generally beginning to dissipate before making landfall there. But that has changed in recent decades.
Hurricanes or hurricane-force post-tropical storms have made landfall there once every one to three years since 1951, according to the country’s hurricane center. But as the Atlantic Basin has remained in an active cycle of tropical cyclones, it also means more threats to Canada, with a hurricane hitting land every two years since 2000.