Hurricane Fiona may be Canada’s strongest storm ever

“Every Nova Scotian should prepare and prepare for impact today,” said John Lohr, the minister responsible for the provincial Emergency Management Office, at a press conference on Thursday.
“This could be Canada’s version of (Hurricane) Sandy,” said Chris Fogarty, a meteorologist for Canada’s hurricane centre, pointing to Fiona’s size and intensity and her combination of hurricane and winter storm characteristics. Hurricane Sandy affected 24 states and the entire east coast, causing an estimated $78.7 billion in damage.

Fiona was about 1,200 kilometers southwest of Halifax, Nova Scotia on Thursday morning, and the area is already poised for a rare and historic impact.

“Please take it seriously because we are seeing meteorological numbers in our weather maps that are rarely seen here,” Fogarty said.

Lohr, with the Nova Scotia emergency management office, said the storm has the potential to be “very dangerous” for the province.

“The storm is expected to bring severe and damaging wind gusts, very high waves, and coastal storm surges, intense and dangerous rainfall rates and prolonged power outages,” Lohr said Thursday. “The time to get ready is now before Fiona arrives tomorrow night.”

The lowest pressure ever recorded in Canada was 940 millibars in January 1977 in Newfoundland, said Brian Tang, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Albany. “The current forecast models indicate that Fiona will make landfall in eastern Nova Scotia with a pressure of about 925 to 935 millibars, which would easily set a new record,” 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 of 2003, which hit the Canadian coast as a Category 2 storm.

“That storm was much smaller. This one is huge,” Fogarty said.

The storm’s hurricane force winds extend 70 miles in both directions from the center – and tropical storm force winds more than 200 miles. A path 140 kilometers wide could experience hurricane-force winds, and an area more than 400 kilometers across could experience tropical storm-force winds.

And Fiona could grow even more by the time the storm reaches Canada, according to Tang.

What Fiona could bring

Fiona is expected to reach Atlantic Canada on Friday night, and the region will begin to experience clearing conditions earlier in the day.

“Fiona is currently purely a hurricane. As it begins to interact with a cold weather system and jet stream, it will transition into a superstorm with characteristics of both a strong hurricane and a strong fall cyclone with hurricane-force winds, very heavy rain, and large storm surge and waves,” Tang explained.

The National Hurricane Center forecasts the storm “to 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 over 100 mph when it hits the coast.

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 can lead to large flash floods.

“We want people to take it very seriously and be prepared for a long period of utility outages and structural damage to buildings,” Fogarty explained.

Life-threatening storm surges and large waves are predicted for the region.

Mike Savage, the mayor of Halifax Regional Municipality, the capital of Nova Scotia, warned wave-watchers and surfers to stay away from coastal areas, adding people who live near the coast “should be prepared to move at short notice and pay close attention to possible evacuation orders.”

“Throughout our Halifax region, you should be prepared for downed trees, extended power outages and localized flooding conditions,” the mayor added.

Cape Breton Regional Municipality Mayor Amanda McDougall said officials are preparing and working to ensure residents will be safe because the area is in “the immediate impact zone.”

“We need to make sure that there is a center for people to go to after the storm because we know that there are different types of housing that cannot withstand the wind, the flooding, the other way around. buildings can,” McDougall said.

How to prepare for a hurricane

Some of the waves over eastern parts of the Gulf of St. 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 a storm of this intensity affected Nova Scotia and Cape Breton. Both were winter storms — in 1974 and 1976, Fogarty said. Many people will not even remember these two storms, so forecasters try to send a clear message for residents to prepare.

CNN meteorologist Judson Jones contributed to this article.