Nfld. & Labrador

'Landmark' Hurricane Fiona picking up speed as it barrels toward Newfoundland's south coast

Hurricane Fiona’s centre will brush western Bermuda on Thursday as a Category 4 storm as it continues its northward trek toward Atlantic Canada, where it is expected to make landfall as one of the strongest storms ever recorded in the region.

Newfoundland's south coast to see 12 hours of winds exceeding 100 km/h, heavy rain

The latest forecast models for Hurricane Fiona continue to project landfall over Cape Breton or the eastern mainland of Nova Scotia. (Ryan Snoddon/CBC)

Hurricane Fiona's centre will brush western Bermuda on Thursday as a Category 4 storm as it churns toward Atlantic Canada, where what Environment Canada is calling a potentially "landmark" storm is expected to make landfall. 

CBC meteorologist Ashley Brauweiler says winds from the storm are gusting to 260 km/h. Fiona will directly strike Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and parts of Prince Edward Island on Friday with winds blowing more than 150 km/h.

"But after that then there's a bit of discrepancy in the models, whether it heads a little bit closer towards southwestern Newfoundland or it continues to track north towards Labrador," Brauweiler said Thursday.

"It's a very far-reaching storm," she said.

The strongest and worst impact in Newfoundland will be felt along the west and southwest coast of the island on Saturday.

"Port aux Basques through to the Burgeo area, you may be seeing those gusts in excess of 110 [km/h] to as much as 130, maybe even a little bit more than that," she said, adding winds will blow from the southwest, with higher gusts in the Wreckhouse area.

Brauweiler said there will be strong winds along the southwest coast for about 12 hours — from 7 a.m. NT Saturday through to the evening.

Rain should begin Friday before the storm itself hits, and Brauweiler said more than 100 millimetres of rain could fall on the southwest coast between Friday and Saturday.

Elsewhere, though, the rain won't be significant, she said. The Avalon Peninsula can expect anywhere from just a trace to five millimetres, but winds in the region will gust between 60 and 80 kilometres per hour, and blow even higher in exposed areas.

Twelve-metre waves and high surf are also expected along the southwestern coast on Saturday.

In a media briefing Thursday afternoon, Environment Canada meteorologist Bob Robichaud said current models show Hurricane Fiona transitioning into a "very, very strong post-tropical storm" by the time it reaches Atlantic Canada early Saturday.

He said a post-tropical storm isn't necessarily less dangerous than a hurricane.

"Basically the transition from tropical to post-tropical is a change in structure," he said. "If you have the right ingredients in place, like we do now with that approaching tropical pressure, you get a re-intensification of that post tropical storm. That's what we're seeing and that's what we're expecting." 

Three maps side by side showing the expected progression of wave intensity in Atlantic Canada due to Hurricane Fiona. From 3 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday the highest waves are expected to move from the southeast coast of Nova Scotia to the southwest coast of Newfoundland.
Environment Canada meteorologist Bob Robichaud says waves could reach 12 metres in some areas. (Environment Canada/Facebook)

He said the "cone of uncertainty" in the latest official forecast for Saturday morning reaches from central Nova Scotia to Newfoundland's west coast, so it still isn't clear what area will feel the strongest impact from the storm.

"There's always some little wobbles in the track, that's to be expected, but the track should be within that cone of uncertainty as it tracks toward eastern Canada," he said.

He said the potential for coastal flooding and storm surges will become clearer Friday, when the forecast storm track becomes more solidified.

'Prepare for the worst and hope for the best'

Brauweiler is urging people across the province to be prepared, put away lawn chairs and any loose items on their properties, and have emergency kits on hand.

"Always prepare for the worst and hope for the best," she said.

On Thursday, provincial Public Safety Minister John Hogan said residents should monitor the forecast, check on neighbours and have enough food, medication and emergency supplies to last three days.

He said the provincial emergency operations has increased its alert level in response to the storm.

"It allows us to communicate with municipalities and communities that are going to be affected. It's a good way to co-ordinate efforts throughout the province for anything that we need," he said.

Hogan said the Department of Transportation and Works has started clearing roads and N.L. Hydro will be monitoring for power outages.

Last year, Newfoundland's southwest coast was cut off from the rest of the island when significant rainfall caused washouts. Hogan said the emergency operations centre is preparing for potential similar situations.

He said the federal government has offered support, including military and helicopter resources, if necessary. 

Hogan said his department is beefing up public safety resources to respond to more frequent extreme weather events like hurricanes or the forest fires that raged across central Newfoundland this past summer.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show, Jeremy Eaton and Malone Mullin

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