HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (AP) — Fiona knocked out power to more than 500,000 customers in Atlantic Canada on Saturday, damaging homes with strong winds and rain as it made landfall as a major, powerful post-tropical cyclone.
Fiona downgraded from a hurricane to a post-tropical storm late on Friday, but forecasters warned it could pack hurricane-force winds and bring torrential rain and huge waves.
More than 415,000 Nova Scotia Power customers — about 80 per cent of the province of nearly 1 million — were affected by outages Saturday morning. More than 82,000 customers in the province of Prince Edward Island were also without power, while NB Power in New Brunswick reported 44,329 were without power.
The fast-moving Fiona made landfall in Nova Scotia before dawn Saturday, downgraded from Category 4 strength early Friday as it passed Bermuda, though officials there did not say serious damage.
The Canadian Hurricane Center tweeted early Saturday that Fiona has the lowest pressure ever recorded for a storm to make landfall in Canada. Forecasters had warned it could be one of the most powerful storms to hit the country.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Newfoundland said the town of Port aux Basques, Newfoundland is under a state of emergency as authorities deal with multiple electrical fires and residential flooding. The mayor of Port-au-Basque, Brian Button, said some houses had been washed away by strong winds and seas.
A local state of emergency has been declared by the mayor and council of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality amid widespread power outages, road closures and damage to homes.
“There are houses that have been significantly damaged by falling trees, big old trees that have fallen and caused significant damage. We also see houses with their roofs completely torn off, windows broken inside. There’s a huge amount of debris on the roads,” Amanda McDougall, mayor of Cape Breton Regional Municipality, told The Associated Press.
“There is a lot of damage to objects and structures, but so far there are no injuries to people. Again we are still in the middle of this situation,” he said. “It’s still scary. I’m just sitting here in my living room and I feel like the patio doors are going to come in with these big gusts. It’s powerful and it’s shocking.”
McDougall said the shelter they opened was full overnight and they will look to open more.
The Federal Ministry of Public Security recommended not to travel by car that is not necessary.
A hurricane watch has been issued for coastal areas of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has decided to delay his trip to Japan for the funeral of slain former prime minister Shinzo Abe.
“We hope of course it won’t take much, but we think it probably will,” Trudeau said. “Listen to the instructions of local authorities and stay there for the next 24 hours.”
The US hurricane center said Fiona had maximum sustained winds of 90 mph (150 km/h) on Saturday. He was passing through eastern Canada.
Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 175 miles (280 km) from the center, and tropical-storm-force winds extended outward up to 405 miles (650 km).
Hurricanes in Canada are somewhat rare, in part because when storms reach cooler waters, they lose their main source of energy. But posttropical cyclones can still have hurricane-force winds, although they have a cold core and are not visible to the eye. They also often lose their symmetrical shape and look more like a comma.
“Just an incredibly strong storm as it made landfall. And even as it moves away, it continues to affect the region for several more hours today,” Ian Hubbard, a meteorologist for the Canadian Hurricane Center in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, said Saturday morning.
Hubbard said he lost power at his home and had to drive the long way to work because the bridges are closed. He said there are downed trees and signs in the Halifax area, but other areas of the province are worse off.
In Sydney, Nova Scotia, Cape Breton’s largest city, about 20 people have taken refuge at the Center 200 sports and entertainment center in Sydney, said Christina Lamey, a spokeswoman for the region.
“The main message from this is for people to stay at home,” he said. “First responders are really stretched right now. We want people to stay off the streets. Most of the roads have hazards, with power lines down and trees too.”
Bob Robichaud, Warning Preparedness Meteorologist for the Canadian Hurricane Centre, said Fiona was shaping up to be a larger storm system than Hurricane Juan, which caused widespread damage in the Halifax area in 2003.
He added that Fiona is about the same size as subtropical storm Dorian in 2019. “But it’s stronger than Dorian was,” he said. “It’s sure to be a historic, extreme event for eastern Canada.”
Authorities in Nova Scotia also sent an emergency alert to phones warning of Fiona’s arrival and urging people to stay indoors, avoid the coast, charge devices and have enough supplies for at least 72 hours.
Fiona has so far been blamed for at least five deaths – two in Puerto Rico, two in the Dominican Republic and one on the French island of Guadeloupe.
Meanwhile, the National Hurricane Center said the newly formed Tropical Storm Ian in the Caribbean is expected to continue to strengthen and hit Cuba early Tuesday as a hurricane and then hit southern Florida early Wednesday.
It was centered about 315 miles (519 kilometers) southeast of Kingston, Jamaica. It had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph (75 km/h) and was moving west-northwest at 14 mph (22 km/h). A hurricane watch has been issued for the Cayman Islands.
Associated Press writer Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report.