Canada braces for Irene's arrival
Weather system expected to hit Quebec on Sunday, Maritimes on Monday
- Irene expected in Quebec, Maritimes on Sunday
- Forecast calls for high winds, heavy rain
Canadians along the eastern seaboard are being urged to prepare for Hurricane Irene, expected to blow in from the United States early Monday morning.
The storm is expected to cross the border in the early morning hours of Monday, but its influence on weather systems will be felt long before then, officials say.
Weather warnings for heavy rainfall and gale-force winds have already been issued for southeastern Quebec and the Maritimes, where Irene is expected to lose some force and be downgraded to a post-tropical storm.
CBC weather specialist Jay Scotland, tracking the weather Saturday night, said the hurricane was likely to enter into Canadian waters and cross into Canada between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. on Monday.
Storms are "unpredictable things," said Greg MacCallum, deputy director at New Brunswick's Emergency Measures Organization.
"To simply say 'Well, it's no longer a hurricane, it's only a tropical storm, now I can relax,' I think would be foolhardy — and frankly, probably not at all advisable that people relax at this point," MacCallum said Saturday.
Heavy rain and high winds will affect regions west of Irene's trackline, including southwestern and central Quebec on Sunday, where 50 to 100 millimetres of precipitation could fall.
Atlantic Canada will get the easterly winds, estimated to gust at speeds of 100 to 120 km/h.
High wind warning:
In the Montreal-Lower St. Lawrence corridor, winds between 70 and 90 km/h are expected starting midday on Sunday, with peak winds up to 110 km/h anticipated in coastal regions between Quebec City and the Lower North Shore.
The storm will continue its eastward journey into the Gaspé region and Atlantic Canada through Monday.
But it's still too early to know exactly how strong the winds will be by the time Irene blows into the Maritimes, as the massive weather system undergoes a transition to post-tropical storm.
The Canadian Hurricane Centre said there is a potential for coastal flooding if the storm surges during high-tide. Waves as high as five metres could hit the southwestern Maritimes.
"If the storm max wind and surge were to come, precisely a coincident with high tide, that could be a concern in the Saint John area, in terms of surge flooding, and right on up to Chignecto Bay," said Chris Fogarty, program supervisor for the Canadian Hurricane Centre.
Environment Canada meteorologist Jean-Marc Couturier said Nova Scotia and New Brunswick should be prepared to go three days without power.
Nova Scotia Power said it has crews on standby, but the utility stressed it is always ready for storms.
"We have vegetation management crews — our crews are always working, trimming trees back on power lines, it's always something we're doing," said NSP spokesman David Rodenhiser.
Fogarty said Saturday the size of Irene is exceptionally large, larger than typical for hurricanes. The storm is so big that clouds from Irene are already in Nova Scotia.
Couturier urged Atlantic Canadians to "get out of vacation mode for next 48 hours."
The Emergency Measures Organization has set up its operation centre in Fredericton, ready to respond if the hurricane does cause extensive damage and flooding.
Paul D'Eon, director of the Nova Scotia Lifeguard Service, said beaches in Nova Scotia would be supervised by lifeguards until the guards believe it's too dangerous.
Then they'll be closed and people would be warned to stay away from the water.
"Don't underestimate the power of the surf and the danger that's there. Stay well back, this is very dangerous surf," D'Eon warned.
Civil security authorities recommend people who live near the storm's track line should tie down anything in their yards that could become a projectile, including outdoor furniture.
People should also consider stocking up on food, water and batteries in case the storm knocks out power in the region.
"There's not much that can be done against really heavy rains," admitted Jean-Thomas Fortin, an official with Quebec's civil security branch.
"We're just urging people that if their situation becomes precarious to call their municipality."