Canada prepares for 'historic, extreme' Fiona storm

Hurricane killed eight people and cut power in Puerto Rico

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Hurricane Fiona drenched Bermuda with heavy rain and buffeted the Atlantic island with hurricane-force winds on Friday as it tracked northward towards eastern Canada, where it threatens to become one of the most severe storms in Canadian history.

Fiona had already battered a series of Caribbean islands earlier in the week, killing at least eight people and knocking out power for almost all of Puerto Rico's 3.3 million people during a sweltering heatwave.

Overnight, the storm approached Bermuda as a Category 4 storm but diminished a notch to Category 3 as it passed west of the British territory. Still, gusts reached as high as 165 kilometres per hour, the Bermuda Weather Service said.

The Bermuda Electric Light Company, the island's sole power provider, said about 29,000 customers, or more than 80 per cent of its customer base, had no electricity on Friday morning.

But Michelle Pitcher, deputy director of the Bermuda Weather Service, said the territory appeared to be largely unscathed.

“It's been a long night but there are no reports of injuries or fatalities,” she said. “There may be people with roof damage, but so far, we haven't heard of anything bad. As I said, we build our houses strong.”

Many Bermuda homes are built with small shuttered windows, slate roofs and limestone blocks to withstand frequent hurricanes.

By late Friday morning, Hurricane Fiona was about 970km south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada's eastern coast, moving north at 56kph with maximum sustained winds of 215kph, the US National Hurricane Centre said.

When it arrives in Nova Scotia on Saturday morning, Fiona is expected to make landfall as a powerful post-tropical storm bigger than Hurricane Juan in 2003 and stronger than Hurricane Dorian in 2019, Canadian Hurricane Centre meteorologist Bob Robichaud said at a briefing.

“Where it fits in the history books, we'll have to make that determination after the fact but it is going to be certainly a historic, extreme event for eastern Canada,” Mr Robichaud said.

Fiona is expected to hit Canada's Cape Breton Island, home to about 135,000 people, or 15 per cent of Nova Scotia's population, Environment Canada said on Friday.

A hurricane warning was in effect for most of central and eastern Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland. The eye will move across Nova Scotia later on Friday, into the Gulf of St Lawrence on Saturday and over Labrador on Sunday.

Forecasters say areas close to its path could get up to 200 millimetres of rain, while winds could damage buildings and cause cuts to utilities, with storm surges swamping the coastlines. The country's two largest airlines, Air Canada and WestJet Airlines, are suspending regional service starting on Friday evening.

An estimated 928,000 homes and businesses were still without power in Puerto Rico on Friday morning after Fiona caused an island-wide power cut, PowerOutage.us reported.

Updated: September 24, 2022, 4:48 AM
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