HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (AP) — Strong rains and winds lashed the Atlantic Canada region as Fiona closed in early Saturday as a big, powerful post-tropical cyclone, and Canadian forecasters warned it could be one of the most severe storms in the country’s history.
Fiona transformed from a hurricane into a post-tropical storm late Friday, but meteorologists cautioned that it still could have hurricane-strength winds and would bring drenching rains and huge waves.
More than 250,000 Nova Scotia Power customers — about half of all customers in the province — were affected by outages just past 1 a.m. local time. The tally rose by another 28,000 by the end of the hour.
The fast-moving Fiona made landfall in Nova Scotia before dawn Saturday, according to the New York Times.
The Canadian Hurricane Centre issued a hurricane watch for coastal expanses of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decided to delay his trip to Japan for the funeral for assassinated former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
“We of course hope there won’t be much needed, but we feel there probably will be,” Trudeau said. “Listen to the instructions of local authorities and hang in there for the next 24 hours.”
The U.S. hurricane center said Fiona was at Category 2 strength late Friday, with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph. It was centered about 140 miles southeast of Halifax, Nova Scotia, heading northeast at 46 mph.
Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 185 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extended outward up to 345 miles.
“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, told the Associated Press before the storm made landfall. “It’s going to be definitely as severe and as bad as any I’ve seen.”
Hurricanes in Canada are somewhat rare, in part because once the storms reach colder waters, they lose their main source of energy. But post-tropical cyclones still can have hurricane-strength winds, although they have a cold core and no visible eye. They also often lose their symmetric form and more resemble a comma.
People in the area rushed to stock up on essentials, and worked to stormproof their properties Friday.
At Samson Enterprises’ boatyard in the small Acadian community of Petit-de-Grat on Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island, Jordan David helped his friend Kyle Boudreau tie down Boudreau’s lobster boat “Bad Influence.”
“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.
Bob Robichaud, Warning Preparedness Meteorologist for the Canadian Hurricane Centre, said Fiona was shaping up to be a bigger storm system than Hurricane Juan, which caused extensive damage to the Halifax area in 2003.
He added that Fiona is about the same size as post-tropical storm Dorian in 2019. “But it is stronger than Dorian was,” he said. “It’s certainly going to be an historic, extreme event for eastern Canada.”
Christina Lamey, a spokesperson for the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, said the Centre 200 sports arena in Sydney was being opened Friday night to take in residents who wanted to evacuate from their homes during the storm. Halifax said it would open four evacuation centers.
Officials on Prince Edward Island sent out an emergency alert to phones warning of the potential for severe flooding on the northern shore of the province.
Authorities in Nova Scotia also sent an emergency alert to phones warning of Fiona’s arrival and urging people to say inside, avoid the shore, 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.
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.
Meanwhile, the National Hurricane Center said newly formed Tropical Storm Ian in the Caribbean was expected to keep strengthening and hit Cuba early Tuesday as a hurricane and then hit southern Florida early Wednesday.
It was centered about 385 miles southeast of Kingston, Jamaica. It had maximum sustained winds of 40 mph and was moving west-northwest at 12 mph. A hurricane watch was issued for the Cayman Islands.
Associated Press writer Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report.