Hurricane Fiona less than 24 hours from landfall in Canada

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People across Atlantic Canada stocked up on last-minute essentials and storm-proofed their properties Friday ahead of the arrival of Fiona, which forecasters say will hit the region as a “very powerful” post-tropical storm.

The storm, characterized as “historic” in magnitude by meteorologists, is expected to make landfall early Saturday morning, bringing hurricane-force winds and more than 100 millimeters of rain to much of the region and eastern Quebec. Closer to Fiona’s path, more than 200 millimeters of rain is expected to fall – potentially leading to some roads being washed out.

Bob Robichaud, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, said Fiona is shaping up to be a larger storm system than Hurricane Juan, which caused extensive damage to the Halifax area in 2003. He said it is about the same size as the post-tropical storm Dorian in 2019.

“But it’s stronger than Dorian was,” he told reporters during a briefing. “It’s definitely going to be a historic, extreme event for eastern Canada.”

He said wind speeds could reach 145km/h with gusts even higher in some areas.

Robichaud said the storm is moving north and is expected to reach Nova Scotia waters late Friday night before passing through Cape Breton early Saturday. Fiona is expected to reach Quebec’s Lower North Shore and southeastern Labrador early Sunday.

Dave Buis, vice-commodore of the Northern Yacht Club in North Sydney, NS, said he is concerned about the storm, which is expected to hit Cape Breton Island.

“Oh absolutely, I think it’s going to be a bad one,” Buis said in a phone interview. “Hopefully it will slow down when it hits the cooler water, but it doesn’t sound like it’s going to.” He said he removed his seven-metre sailboat from the water on Thursday.

On the eastern side of the island in the small Acadian community of Petit-de-Grat, NS, fishermen were also busy dry-docking their boats or trying to lash them to the wharf.

Lobster fisherman Kyle Boudreau said major storm damage is hard for a coastal community to absorb. “This is our livelihood. Our boats get smashed, our traps get smashed ΓǪ those are things you don’t need to start your season next year,” he said.

Meanwhile, stores in Halifax were selling off propane gas cylinders used for camping stoves. The shelves in the camping section of a local Canadian tire store that usually had the little green cans were completely bare.

But Halifax resident and plumber Chad Shiers advised that people looking for a small fuel tank could use plumbing propane.

“There are several ways to get what you need,” he said Friday after buying a blue propane torch. “If I have fire, I can eat. As long as they have what I need, I don’t panic.”

Robichaud warned people across the region not to be complacent just because they are nowhere near the center of the storm’s track. “The impacts will be felt far beyond where the center of the storm actually goes,” he said.

Strong winds and rainfall are expected to result in “major impacts” for eastern Prince Edward Island, eastern Nova Scotia, southern and eastern New Brunswick, western Newfoundland, eastern Quebec and southeastern Labrador.

Coastal areas of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland are expected to experience pounding surf, with waves expected to reach more than 10 meters off Nova Scotia and more than 12 meters in eastern parts of St. Gulf of Lawrence.

In addition to significant storm surge, the potential for coastal and inland flooding, and an “all-time” low across the region, the storm is expected to cause widespread power outages due to trees and power poles brought down by strong winds.

A spokeswoman for the Cape Breton Regional Municipality said there are plans to open the Center 200 sports center in Sydney as an evacuation center Friday night. Christina Lamey said the space should be used by residents who feel they will be unsafe throughout the storm, especially those living on the southern coast of the region. Halifax was also set to open four evacuation centers on Friday night.

In PEI, Public Safety Minister Darlene Compton warned people who might be curious to stay away from coastal areas, saying it wasn’t worth it to watch the storm roll in.

“My message is simple — don’t,” Compton said during a briefing. “Do not go near the water, do not put yourself and others in danger.” An emergency alert from the province warned residents of severe flooding expected along the northern coastline.

In downtown Charlottetown, the normally busy Confederation Landing was unusually quiet. Restaurant owners Lisa and Robert Gale decided to keep Lobster on the Wharf open Friday afternoon to welcome a tour bus expected at 17.00. Robert Gale said the worst storm they had encountered was Dorian. “We’d be lying if we said we weren’t worried about Fiona,” added his wife Lisa.

Red chairs that normally sat on the deck were stacked in their office along with tables, and they hoped the storm surges weren’t so high that there is water in the restaurant.

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey issued a statement aimed at reassuring the people of his province Friday, saying a provincial emergency operations center has been activated while Department of Transportation crews were already checking culverts and removing debris .

“Stay home if at all possible, as this will not only help keep you and your family safe, but will avoid putting emergency responders at risk,” Furey said.

In Quebec on Friday, Premier Francois Legault said authorities were keeping a close eye on Fiona, which is on track to hit Iles-de-la-Madeleine, Gaspe and the province’s Lower North Shore.

“I want to tell people in these regions, be careful, there is a significant risk, prepare for the worst and we hope it goes well,” Legault said in Laval.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on September 23, 2022.

— With files from Michael Tutton in Petit-de-Grat, NS, Lyndsay Armstrong in Halifax, Hina Alam in Charlottetown and Sidhartha Banerjee in Montreal

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