Wild horses face storm as Fiona nears Canada's east coast

Five hundred Sable Island horses roam an area near the world's biggest breeding colony of grey seals

Wild horses on Sable Island have little natural cover, and tend to shelter on the lee sides of sand dunes during storms. Reuters
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Shaggy, long-maned wild horses grazing freely on the sandy grasslands of Sable Island in the North Atlantic are expected to be confronted with a powerful storm that is forecast to hit eastern Canada this weekend.

Hurricane Fiona, tracking northwards after carving a destructive path through the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, could be one of the worst storms to hit Atlantic Canada in recent years.

Storms are not uncommon in the region and they typically pass quickly, but Fiona is expected to hit a very large area and bring long periods of harsh weather, Canadian Hurricane Centre meteorologist Bob Robichaud said.

Wild horses on the remote Sable Island in Nova Scotia, Canada. Reuters

Fiona, expected to be classified as a post-tropical storm when it makes landfall in Nova Scotia province, could bring very strong winds, heavy rain and floods in several provinces of eastern Canada.

By mid-Thursday, Fiona was about 1,800 kilometres to the south-west of Halifax, capital of the province.

Off the coast of Nova Scotia is the Sable Island National Park Reserve, a narrow strip of dunes and grasslands managed by Parks Canada.

Here roam about 500 Sable Island horses alongside the world's biggest breeding colony of grey seals.

All scheduled flights for visitors have been cancelled while a small a team of officials prepared to shelter on the island.

The team members have been busy securing material and equipment to minimise any damage, Parks Canada spokeswoman Jennifer Nicholson said.

But the horses, which are not indigenous to the sandbar and are believed to have been brought in by European sailors in the 18th century, have practically no natural cover.

"Over the last two centuries, the horses of Sable Island have adapted remarkably well to their environment," Ms Nicholson said.

"During inclement weather the horses act instinctively and seek shelter in groups in the lee of the dunes for protection."

Fiona could be a "little stronger" than 2019's hurricane Dorian, Mr Robichaud said.

Dorian blew though Halifax as an intense post-tropical storm, knocking down trees, cutting power and blowing over a large building crane.

Environment Canada has issued a storm alert for much of Atlantic Canada, along with parts of Quebec, Canada's second-most populous province.

Updated: September 22, 2022, 10:07 PM
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