HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA (AP) – Fiona knocked out power to more than 500,000 customers in Atlantic Canada yesterday, damaging homes with strong winds and rain as it made landfall as a big, powerful post-tropical cyclone.
Fiona transformed from a hurricane into a post-tropical storm on Friday, but meteorologists cautioned that it still could have hurricane-strength winds and would bring drenching rains and huge waves.
Over 414,000 Nova Scotia Power customers – about 80 per cent of the province of almost one million – were affected by outages yesterday morning.
Over 82,000 customers in the province of Prince Edward Island were also without power, while NB Power in New Brunswick reported 44,329 were without electricity.
The fast-moving Fiona made Nova Scotia landfall before dawn yesterday, with its power down from the Category 4 strength it had on Friday when passing by Bermuda, though officials there reported no serious damage.
The Canadian Hurricane Centre tweeted yesterday that Fiona has the lowest pressure ever recorded for a storm making landfall in Canada. Forecasters had warned it could be the one of the most powerful storms to hit the country.
A state of local emergency has been declared by the mayor and council of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality amid widespread power outages, road closures and damage to homes.
The extent of the damage was not immediately clear at sunrise.
A hurricane watch was issued for coastal expanses of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.
“It’s going to a bad one,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who decided to delay his trip to Japan for the funeral for assassinated former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
“We of course hope there won’t be much needed, but we feel there probably will be,” Trudeau said. “Listen to the instructions of local authorities and hang in there for the next 24 hours.”
The United States (US) hurricane centre said Fiona had maximum sustained winds of 150 kilometres per hour (kph) yesterday. It was moving across eastern Canada.
Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 280 kilometres (km) from the centre and tropical storm-force winds extended outward up to 65km.
Hurricanes in Canada are somewhat rare, in part because once the storms reach colder waters, they lose their main source of energy. But post-tropical cyclones still can have hurricane-strength winds, although they have a cold core and no visible eye. They also often lose their symmetric form and more resemble a comma.
“Still holding strong. But it’s getting very scary,” Cape Breton Regional Municipality Mayor Amanda McDougall told The Associated Press in the first hours after it hit.
People in the area rushed to stock up essentials and worked to stormproof their properties on Friday.
At Samsons Enterprises boatyard in the small Acadian community of Petit-de-Grat on Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island, Jordan David helped his friend Kyle Boudreau tie down Boudreau’s lobster boat “Bad Influence”.
“All we can do is hope for the best and prepare as best we can. There’s something coming, and just how bad is yet to be determined,” said David, wearing his outdoor waterproof gear.
Canadian Hurricane Centre Warning Preparedness Meteorologist Bob Robichaud, said Fiona was shaping up to be a bigger storm system than Hurricane Juan, which caused extensive damage to the Halifax area in 2003.
He added that Fiona is about the same size as post-tropical storm Dorian in 2019. “But it is stronger than Dorian was,” he said. “It’s certainly going to be an historic, extreme event for eastern Canada.”
Cape Breton Regional Municipality spokesperson Christina Lamey said the centre 200 sports arena in Sydney was opened on Friday night to take in residents who wanted to evacuate from their homes during the storm. Halifax said it would open four evacuation centres.
Officials on Prince Edward Island sent out an emergency alert to phones warning of the potential for severe flooding on the northern shore of the province. “Immediate efforts should be taken to protect belongings. Avoid shorelines, waves are extremely dangerous.
Residents in those regions should be prepared to move out if needed,” the alert read.
Authorities in Nova Scotia also sent an emergency alert to phones warning of Fiona’s arrival and urging people to say inside, avoid the shore, charge devices and have enough supplies for at least 72 hours.
Fiona so far has been blamed for at least five deaths – two in Puerto Rico, two in the Dominican Republic and one in the French island of Guadeloupe.
Meanwhile, the National Hurricane Centre said newly formed Tropical Storm Ian in the Caribbean was expected to keep strengthening and hit Cuba early Tuesday as a hurricane and then hit southern Florida early Wednesday.
It was centred about 519km southeast of Kingston, Jamaica. It had maximum sustained winds of 75kph and was moving west-northwest at 22kph. A hurricane watch was issued for the Cayman Islands.