Canadians living along the eastern coastline battened down for the arrival of what could be the most powerful storm to ever strike the nation.
Hurricane Fiona hurtled past Bermuda Friday morning with maximum sustained wind speeds topping off at 125 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. Fiona was downgraded to a Category 3 storm as it cleared Bermuda, briefly re-upgraded to Category 4 status and then downgraded back a Category 3 storm as it roared through the chilly North Atlantic.
Meteorologists said Fiona would make landfall in Canada early Saturday morning. The storm is expected to lash the Great White North with severe rain and intense winds. Though Bermuda experienced similar conditions, no major damage was reported Friday evening on the British territory.
The massive storm system will likely make landfall along Canada’s Atlantic coastline as a “large and powerful post-tropical cyclone with hurricane-force winds,” the National Hurricane Center said. It has triggered a hurricane watch for large swaths of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.
“It’s going to be a storm that everyone remembers when it is all said and done,” said Bob Robichaud, warning preparedness meteorologist for the Canadian Hurricane Centre.
Hurricanes are rare in Canada, in part because the storm’s core cools when it reaches colder waters — stripping it of its main energy source — which results in an extratropical storm system. But while Fiona may not be a hurricane when it makes landfall in the country Saturday morning, it still has the potential to be “very dangerous” for the region. Such cyclones still boast hurricane-strength winds, but with a cold core instead of a warm one and no visible eye.
A similar downgrade did not stop Superstorm Sandy from wreaking havoc across the East Coast in 2012.
Forecasters have warned of winds in excess of 100 mph and flooding rainfall of up to 10 inches for much of the Canadian coast. Large waves, especially for the Atlantic coasts of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and eastern portions of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, triggered by the storm are also likely.
“Every Nova Scotian should be preparing today and bracing for impact,” John Lohr, the minister responsible for the provincial Emergency Management Office, said in a news conference.
“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.
As of 8 p.m. Friday, the center of the storm was located about 215 miles southeast of Halifax, Nova Scotia, where it was predicted to make landfall Saturday morning.
Before reaching Bermuda early Friday, Hurricane Fiona slammed into Puerto Rico on Sunday, some five years after Hurricane Maria knocked out power across the island nation. According to outages.com, more than a million residents remained without power early Friday. Many people across the island still lacked access to running water.
Fiona so far has been blamed for at least five deaths — two in Puerto Rico, two in the Dominican Republic and one on the French island of Guadeloupe.
The storm is expected to miss the mainland U.S., but the National Hurricane Center warned that Fiona could cause “life-threatening surf and rip current conditions along much of the east coast of the United States” over the weekend and into next week.
With News Wire Services