Hurricane Fiona transformed into a post-tropical cyclone late Friday, but meteorologists warned it could still bring hurricane-strength wind, heavy rain and big waves to the Atlantic Canada region and had the potential to be one of the most severe storms in the country’s history.
Fiona, which started the day as Category 4 storm but weakened to Category 2 strength late Friday, was already “producing severe winds and very heavy rainfall” over Nova Scotia late Friday night, the Canadian Hurricane Centre wrote in an advisory. It was forecast to make landfall in Nova Scotia in the early morning hours Saturday.
The agency had issued hurricane and tropical storm warnings over extensive coastal expanses of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.
As of late Friday night, utility company Nova Scotia Power reported on its website that more than 185,000 customers were without power as a result of the storm.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in an advisory that Fiona would move across Nova Scotia and into the Gulf of St. Lawrence on Saturday. It will reach the Labrador Sea by late Sunday.
“Although gradual weakening is forecast during the next couple of days, Fiona is expected to maintain hurricane-force winds through Saturday morning,” the NHC wrote, adding that some areas of Atlantic Canada could see a “dangerous storm surge” which is expected to cause coastal flooding.
As of 11 p.m. EDT Friday, the NHC said Fiona had maximum sustained winds of 105 mph. It was centered about 140 miles east of Halifax, Nova Scotia, heading north at 46 mph.
Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and western Newfoundland could receive 3 to 6 inches of rain from Fiona, the NHC reported. Labrador and eastern Quebec could get 2 to 5 inches.
“This is definitely going to be one of, if not the most powerful, tropical cyclones to affect our part of the country,” said Ian Hubbard, meteorologist for the Canadian Hurricane Centre in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. “It’s going to be definitely as severe and as bad as any I’ve seen.”
Hubbard said the storm was weakening as it moved over cooler water and he felt it highly unlikely it would reach land with hurricane strength. Hurricanes in Canada are somewhat rare, in part because once the storms reach colder waters, they lose their main source of energy. and become extratropical. But those cyclones still can have hurricane-strength winds, though with a cold instead of a warm core and no visible eye. Their shape can be different, too. They lose their symmetric form and can more resemble a comma.
“It’s going to a bad one,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday. “We of course hope there won’t be much needed, but we feel there probably will be. And we will be there for that. In the meantime we encourage everyone to stay safe and to listen to the instructions of local authorities and hang in there for the next 24 hours.”
Authorities in Nova Scotia sent an emergency alert to phones warning of Fiona’s arrival and urging people to say inside, avoid coastlines, charge devices and have enough supplies for at least 72 hours. Officials warned of prolonged power outages, wind damage to trees and structures and coastal flooding and possible road washouts.
A hurricane warning was in effect for Nova Scotia from Hubbards to Brule; Prince Edward Island; Isle-de-la-Madeleine; and Newfoundland from Parson’s Pond to Francois.
People across Atlantic Canada were stocking up on last-minute essentials and storm-proofing their properties Friday ahead of the arrival.
At Samsons Enterprises boatyard in the small Acadian community of Petit-de-Grat on Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island, Jordan David was helping his friend Kyle Boudreau tie his lobster boat “Bad Influence” down, in hopes it wouldn’t be lifted and broken by winds.
“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.
Kyle Boudreau said he was worried.
“This is our livelihood. Our boats get smashed, our traps gets smashed … it’s stuff you don’t have to start your season next year,” he said.
Amanda McDougall, mayor of Cape Breton Regional Municipality, said officials were preparing a shelter for people to enter before the storm arrived.
“We have been through these types of events before, but my fear is, not to this extent,” she said. “The impacts are going to be large, real and immediate.”
Dave Pickles, chief operating officer of Nova Scotia Power, said it expected widespread power outages.
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.
Fiona was a Category 4 hurricaneand winds earlier Friday. Authorities there opened shelters and closed schools and offices. Michael Weeks, the national security minister, said there had been no reports of major damage.
Before reaching Bermuda, Fiona caused severe flooding and devastation in Puerto Rico, leading U.S. President Joe Bidenthat the full force of the federal government is ready to help the U.S. territory recover.
Speaking at a briefing with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials in New York, Mr. Biden said, “We’re all in this together.”
Mr. Biden noted that hundreds of FEMA and other federal officials are already on the ground in Puerto Rico, where Fiona caused an island-wide blackout.
More than 60% of power customers remained without energy Thursday and a third of customers were without water, while local officials said they could not say when service would be fully restored.
As of Friday, hundreds of people inremained isolated by blocked roads five days after the hurricane ripped into the island. Frustration was mounting for people like Nancy Galarza, who tried to signal for help from work crews she spotted in the distance.
“Everyone goes over there,” she said pointing toward crews at the bottom of the mountain who were helping others also cut off by the storm. “No one comes here to see us. I am worried for all the elderly people in this community.”
At least five landslides covered the narrow road to her community in the steep mountains around the northern town of Caguas. The only way to reach the settlement was to climb over thick mounds of mud, rock and debris left by Fiona, whose floodwaters shook the foundations of nearby homes with earthquake-like force.
At least eight of the 11 communities in Caguas were completely isolated, said Luis González, municipal inspector of recovery and reconstruction.
It was one of at least six municipalities where crews had yet to reach some areas. People there often depend on help from neighbors, as they did following Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm in 2017 that killed nearly 3,000 people.
Danciel Rivera arrived in rural Caguas with a church group and tried to bring a little cheer by dressing as a clown.
“That’s very important in these moments,” he said, noting that people had never fully recovered from Hurricane Maria.
His huge clown shoes squelched through the mud as he greeted people, whose faces lit up as they smiled at him.
Meanwhile, the NHC reported late Friday night thatin the Caribbean could reach Florida by Monday, potentially as a hurricane, and cause flash flooding. In response, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency. The storm was expected to bring heavy rainfall to Jamaica, Cuba and the Cayman Islands before reaching South Florida.