Deadly Hurricane Fiona has strengthened to a Category 4 storm as it barrels toward Canada’s Atlantic coast, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Officials in Canada’s Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island are urging those in the storm’s path to be on high alert and prepare for the impact of the hurricane, which has claimed the lives of at least five people have claimed and this week the power for millions turned off as it battered several Caribbean islands.
“The Air Force Hurricane Hunters have been investigating the major hurricane and have found that it remains powerful and very large,” the center said in an update Friday morning.
“This could be an original event for Canada in terms of intensity of a tropical cyclone,” and it could even become Canada’s version of Superstorm Sandy, said Chris Fogarty, Canadian Hurricane Center manager. Hurricane Sandy affected 24 states and the entire east coast, causing an estimated $78.7 billion in damage.
“It has the potential to be very dangerous,” said John Lohr, the minister in charge of the provincial Emergency Management Office. “Influences are projected to be felt in the province. Every Nova Scotian should prepare today,” Lohr added in an official update Thursday.
Residents should brace for damaging winds, high waves, coastal storm surge and heavy rainfall that could lead to longer power outages, Lohr said. Emergency officials have encouraged people to secure outdoor items, trim trees, charge cell phones and prepare a 72-hour emergency kit.
The area hasn’t seen a storm like this in about 50 years, according to Chris Fogarty, manager of the Canadian Hurricane Centre.
“Please take it seriously because we are seeing meteorological numbers in 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 the 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 as safely and efficiently as possible,” Sean Borden, the storm coordinator for Nova Scotia Power, said in the release.
“Once Fiona passes Bermuda, the storm is expected to impact Nova Scotia on Saturday afternoon. Fiona will become extratropical before impact, but this will do little to impede the damage Fiona will cause,” said CNN Meteorologist Robert Shackelford.
Across Atlantic Canada, winds could be around 100 mph (160 km/h) when 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 in Newfoundland from Parson’s Pond to Francois. Prince Edward Island and Isle-de-la-Madeleine are also warned.
Prince Edward Island officials are imploring residents to prepare for the worst as the storm looms.
Tanya Mullally, who serves as the county’s chief of emergency management, said one of the most pressing concerns with Fiona is the historic storm surge it is expected to unleash.
“The storm surge will certainly be significant. … Flooding that we have not seen nor can we measure,” Mullally said Thursday during an update.
Canadian Hurricane Center modeling suggests the surge “depending on the area, could be anywhere from 1.8 to 2.4 meters (6-8 feet),” said Bob Robichaud, a meteorologist with the center.
The northern part of the island stands to bear the brunt of the storm because of the direction of the wind, which is likely to cause property damage and coastal flooding, said Mullally.
All provincial campgrounds, beaches and day-use parks, such as the Shubenacadie Wildlife Park will close at noon Friday, the Nova Scotia Emergency Management Office said.
“Safety is our priority as we prepare for significant storm conditions Friday night and Saturday. We are closing provincial park properties ahead of the storm and will reopen when it is safe,” Natural Resources and Renewable Energy Minister Tory Rushton said in a statement that’ t announced the closures.
Earlier this week, Fiona damaged homes and upended critical power and water infrastructure for millions of people across Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Turks and Caicos.
Days after Puerto Rico experienced an island-wide blackout when Fiona made landfall on Sunday, only 38% of customers had their power restored by Thursday, according to power grid operator LUMA Energy.
The massive power outage comes as much of Puerto Rico endures extreme heat, making temperatures feel as hot as 112 degrees Thursday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.
Daniel Hernández, director of sustainable projects at LUMA, explained that critical places including hospitals are prioritized before repairs can begin on an individual level.
“This is a normal process. The important thing is that everyone is calm … we are working to ensure that 100% of the customers have service as soon as possible,” said Hernández.
Nearly 360,000 customers experienced intermittent water service or no service at all as of Thursday night, according to the government’s emergency portal system.
As of Wednesday, more than 800 people were housed in dozens of shelters across the island, according to Puerto Rico’s housing secretary, William Rodriguez.
President Joe Biden has approved a major disaster declaration for the US territory, FEMA said. The move allows residents to access grants for temporary housing and home repairs, as well as low-interest loans to cover uninsured property loss.
In the Dominican Republic, Fiona affected 8,708 households and destroyed 2,262 homes, according to the nation’s head of emergency operations, Major General Juan Méndez García.
He said more than 210,000 homes and businesses were still in the dark Thursday morning, and another 725,246 customers were without running water.
“This was something incredible that we have never seen before,” Ramona Santana in Higüey, Dominican Republic, told CNN en Español this week. “We are on the street with nothing, no food, no shoes, clothes, just what is on your back. … We have nothing. We have God, and the hope that help will come.”
Fiona also threatened parts of the Turks and Caicos on Tuesday, and areas of the British territory were still without power earlier this week, namely Grand Turk, South Caicos, Salt Cay, North Caicos and Middle Caicos, Anya said Williams, Acting Governor of the Islands.