CAGUAS, Puerto Rico (AP) — A hurricane expected to transform into a huge post-tropical storm will bring hurricane-strength wind, heavy rain and big waves to Atlantic Canada, meteorologists said Friday in warning that it has the potential to be one of the most severe storms in the country’s history.
Hurricane Fiona was forecast to make landfall Saturday morning. The Canadian Hurricane Centre issued a hurricane watch over extensive coastal expanses of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Fiona should reach the area as a “large and powerful post-tropical cyclone with hurricane-force winds.”
“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. “It’s going to be definitely as severe and as bad as any I’ve seen.”
Fiona, currently a category 4, pounded Bermuda with heavy rains and winds Friday as it swept by the island on a route heading for northeastern Canada. Authorities in Bermuda opened shelters and closed schools and offices ahead of Fiona. Michael Weeks, the national security minister, said there had been no reports of major damage.
Hubbard said it the storm was weakening some and running into cooler water so it was unlikely to reach landfall as a hurricane. Hurricanes in Canada are somewhat rare, in part because once the storms reach colder waters, they lose their main source of energy. and become extratropical. But those cyclones still can have hurricane-strength winds, though with a cold instead of a warm core and no visible eye. Their shape can be different, too. They lose their symmetric form and can more resemble a comma.
Bob Robichaud, Warning Preparedness Meteorologist for the Canadian Hurricane Centre, said the center of the storm was expected to arrive in Nova Scotia on Saturday morning, but its winds and rains would arrive late Friday.
“It’s going to a bad one,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said. “We of course hope there won’t be much needed, but we feel there probably will be. And we will be there for that. In the meantime we encourage everyone to stay safe and to listen to the instructions of local authorities and hang in there for the next 24 hours.”
Authorities in Nova Scotia 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.
The U.S. center said Fiona had maximum sustained winds of 130 mph (215 kph) at midafternoon Friday. It was centered about 475 miles (770 kilometers) south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, heading northeast at 35 mph (56 kph).
Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 115 miles (185 kilometers) from the center and tropical storm-force winds extended outward up to 345 miles (555 kilometers).
A hurricane warning was in effect for Nova Scotia from Hubbards to Brule; Prince Edward Island; Isle-de-la-Madeleine; and Newfoundland from Parson’s Pond to Francois.
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.
People across Atlantic Canada were stocking up on last-minute essentials and storm-proofing their properties Friday ahead of the arrival.
At Samsons Enterprises boatyard in the small Acadian community of Petit-de-Grat on Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island, Jordan David was helping his friend Kyle Boudreau tie down Boudreau’s lobster boat “Bad Influence” in hopes it wouldn’t be lifted and broken by winds.
“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.
Kyle Boudreau said he was worried. “This is our livelihood. Our boats get smashed, our traps gets smashed … it’s stuff you don’t have to start your season next year,” he said.
Aidan Sampson said he had been working 11-hour days in his father-in-law’s boatyard for the past week, lifting fishing vessels out of the water.
Meanwhile, the National Hurricane Center said that a tropical depression in the southern Caribbean was expected to hit Cuba early Tuesday as a hurricane and then hit southern Florida early Wednesday.
It was centered about 615 miles (985 kilometers) east-southeast of Kingston, Jamaica. It had maximum sustained winds of 35 mph (55 kph) and was moving at 13 mph (20 kph).
Before reaching Bermuda, Fiona caused severe flooding and devastation in Puerto Rico, leading U.S. President Joe Biden to say Thursday that the full force of the federal government is ready to help the U.S. territory recover.
Biden noted that hundreds of FEMA and other federal officials are already on the ground in Puerto Rico, where Fiona caused an island-wide blackout.
Gov. Pedro Pierluisi of Puerto Rico activated the National Guard to help distribute diesel fuel to hospitals and supermarkets. The force is also supplying generators used to operate potable water plants and telecommunications towers.
More than 60% of power customers remained without energy Thursday, though efforts to restore power were underway. Many customers were without water, while local officials said they could not say when service would be fully restored.
As of Friday, hundreds of people in Puerto Rico remained isolated by blocked roads five days after the hurricane ripped into the island.
At least five landslides covered the narrow road to her community in the steep mountains around the northern town of Caguas. The only way to reach the settlement was to climb over thick mounds of mud, rock and debris left by Fiona, whose floodwaters shook the foundations of nearby homes with earthquake-like force.
At least eight of the 11 communities in Caguas were completely isolated, said Luis González, municipal inspector of recovery and reconstruction.
It was one of at least six municipalities where crews had yet to reach some areas. People there often depend on help from neighbors, as they did following Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm in 2017 that killed nearly 3,000 people.
Gillies reported from Toronto. Associated Press journalist Maricarmen Rivera Sánchez in San Juan, Puerto Rico, contributed.