The PEI Emergency Measures Organization is now warning that Hurricane Fiona could leave more damage on Prince Edward Island than Hurricane Juan did back in 2003.
That’s a notch up from Wednesday, when officials were saying the incoming tropical storm system could be “comparable” to Juan.
With the sheer size of Hurricane Fiona, even if the forecast track takes a turn before it hits, Islanders can assume there will be significant impacts from tip to tip, the acting director of public safety for the province said during a Thursday afternoon briefing.
“I think now the certainty is starting to get narrowed in a little bit,” Tanya Mullally said. “Storm surge is certainly going to be significant. The words that they were using with the Canadian Hurricane Center is ‘historic storm surge’ — so, flooding that we have not seen nor can we measure against.
“We were measuring against Juan yesterday, and now they are kind of saying, ‘Well, that may not be sufficient to really prepare us.'”
Fiona is expected to merge with a low-pressure system from the west as it hits Atlantic Canadian waters, transforming the weather system into a post-tropical storm. But much like Dorian, which had also been downgraded to a post-tropical storm when it reached PEI in September 2019, the effects could still be devastating.
Those effects will include high winds, intense rainfall, and coastal flooding with a storm surge and very high waves.
The northern coast of the Island is expected to see a significant storm surge for eight to 10 hours due to the prevailing wind direction, according to Mullally. The storm’s winds will be moving in a counter-clockwise direction, so as it passes to the east of PEI, the winds will be coming from the north.
Earlier on Thursday, Environment Canada placed all of Prince Edward Island under a hurricane watch.
The watch was posted as being in effect until 6 pm AT on Friday, but “will likely be upgraded to a hurricane warning tonight,” the federal weather agency’s website said.
Environment Canada also updated its special weather statement in connection with the storm. The center of the forecast track currently has Fiona making landfall somewhere around the Canso Strait in Nova Scotia.
As it stands right now, PEI is not going to be spared Fiona’s wrath.— Tina Simpkin
“Strong to severe wind gusts are expected to start impacting [P.E.I.] on Friday night, peaking on Saturday,” the statement said.
“Past storms of this nature have produced prolonged utility outages and structural damage. Buildings under construction will be particularly vulnerable.”
“As it stands right now, PEI is not going to be spared Fiona’s wrath,” said CBC meteorologist Tina Simpkin, adding that the storm might still hit as a Category 1 or Category 2 weather system before it heads out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence toward Quebec’s Lower North Shore.
The province will see rain and wind on Friday ahead of the hurricane’s arrival, Mullally said. “Fiona really won’t be felt until later on Friday evening and the overnight hours.”
Fiona’s forecast track has been moving west in the last couple of days, making its impact on the region stronger than predicted earlier this week.
People should not wait to prepare for the storm, PEI Minister of Justice and Public Safety Darlene Compton told the briefing on Thursday.
The storm is coming. I am not trying to scare anybody, but we need to prepare ourselves and make sure we are prepared.—Darlene Compton
“The storm is coming. I am not trying to scare anybody, but we need to prepare ourselves and make sure we are prepared.”
Additional support will be provided through the Fire Marshal’s Office to respond to emergency situations, she said.
Compton is also reminding people to make sure they have an emergency kit put together with supplies to last at least 72 hours.
“We want Islanders to stay at home and stay safe until we get the all-clear,” Compton said.
EMO is encouraging people to stay inside Saturday morning and not go out to look at damage.
Mullally said people need to wait for the storm to pass so that emergency vehicles providing clean-up won’t be blocked.
There will be a news conference on Saturday to provide an update on storm damage and let people know whether it is safe to be on the road, Mullally said.