Canadians are bracing for what could be the strongest storm ever to hit their country’s coast.
Hurricane Fiona has hit the Caribbeanforecast by Bermuda as a dangerous Category 3 storm with no signs of slowing down before making landfall in Canada on Saturday morning.
“This could be the Canadian version of (Storm) Sandy“Chris Fogarty, meteorologist for Canada’s hurricane center, points to the size and intensity of Fiona and the combination of its storm and winter storm characteristics. Hurricane Sandy affected 24 states and the entire country the eastern seaboard, causing an estimated $78.7 billion in damage.
Fiona was about 1,200 miles southwest of Halifax, Nova Scotia on Thursday morning, but that area is bracing for a rare and historic impact.
“Let’s take it seriously because we’re seeing meteorological numbers in our weather maps that are rarely seen here,” says Fogarty.
Brian Tang, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Albany, said the lowest pressure ever recorded in Canada was 940 millibars in January 1977 in Newfoundland. “Current weather models suggest that Fiona will make landfall in eastern Nova Scotia with a pressure of around 925-935 millibars, which would easily set a new record,” he said.
Pressures of 920 to 944 millibars are typically found in Category 4 hurricanes.
Many forecasters, including Fogarty, are comparing this storm to the 2003 hurricane Hurricane Juan, Category 2 hurricane has hit the Canadian coast.
“That storm was much smaller. Fogarty said.
The storm’s strong winds extended 70 miles in both directions from its center
– and tropical storm winds for more than 200 miles. That means a 140-mile wide road can withstand hurricane winds and an area more than 400 miles wide can experience tropical storm winds.
And Fiona could grow even more by the time the storm hits Canada, according to Tang.
Fiona is expected to reach Atlantic Canada Friday night but the region will begin experiencing worsening conditions early Friday.
“Fiona is a complete storm right now. As it begins to interact with the cold weather system and jet stream, it will transform into a super typhoon with characteristics of both strong hurricanes and strong fall tornadoes with hurricane-like winds, very heavy rains, waves and high tides,” explained Tang.
The National Hurricane Center forecast the storm “will continue to generate strong winds as it passes Nova Scotia and moves into the Gulf of St. Lawrence.” In fact, the storm could still carry winds above 100 mph when it makes landfall.
Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and western Newfoundland could receive up to 6 inches of rain, with some areas receiving up to 10 inches. This can lead to severe flash flooding.
“We want people to take it very seriously and be prepared for long-term power outages and structural damage to buildings,” explains Fogarty.
Forecast in the area with high tides and life-threatening waves.
Some waves on the eastern parts of the Gulf of St. Edward Island, the center of the Canadian hurricane.
The storm center also warns of coastal flooding, especially during high tide.
It has been almost 50 years since this intense storm affected Nova Scotia and Cape Breton. Both were winter storms — in 1974 and 1976, Fogarty said. Many people won’t even remember those two storms, so forecasters are trying to send a clear message to people to be prepared.