Fiona might be worse on P.E.I. than Juan was, with 'historic storm surge'
Potential for storm surge of 1 to 2 metres on Saturday, especially along North Shore
The P.E.I. Emergency Measures Organization is now warning that Hurricane Fiona could leave behind 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 oncoming 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 Canadian Hurricane Centre 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 P.E.I. in September 2019, the effects could still be devastating.
Schools open Friday
Provincial EMO will continue monitoring the situation closely and English and French-language schools across the province are set to open as normal Friday morning, the Public Schools Branch said in an email Thursday evening.
"If Fiona decides to arrive early or there is a concern for student safety which would require an early dismissal, we will make a further announcement," the PSB said in a statement.
The effects of Fiona 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.
Winds from north, then northwest
The storm's winds will be moving in a counter-clockwise direction, so as it passes to the east of P.E.I., the winds will be coming from the north before switching to the northwest as the storm's centre moves up into the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
"Wave heights up to eight metres are possible in the western gulf, and may exceed 10 to 12 metres to our east toward Cabot Strait with a one- to two-metre storm surge possible for P.E.I.," said CBC meteorologist Jay Scotland.
That could spell washed-out roads, flooded basements and damage to coastal properties, wharves and dunes.
RAINFALL WARNING and HURRICANE WATCH in effect for all of <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PEI?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PEI</a> ahead of <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Fiona?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Fiona</a>'s arrival Friday night into Saturday morning. 100-150+ mm of rain with 100-140+ km/h northerly wind gusts possible. Advisory details can be found here: <a href="https://t.co/Ue78XrOwpZ">https://t.co/Ue78XrOwpZ</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/pestorm?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#pestorm</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/peistorm?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#peistorm</a> <a href="https://t.co/RjZMeeVH5Q">pic.twitter.com/RjZMeeVH5Q</a>—@JayScotland
Earlier on Thursday, Environment Canada placed all of Prince Edward Island under a hurricane watch.
"Past storms of this nature have produced prolonged utility outages and structural damage," Environment Canada warned. "Buildings under construction will be particularly vulnerable."
A heavy rainfall warning was issued for all three counties on Prince Edward Island just after 3 p.m. AT on Thursday.
We will actually begin to see the early influence of this storm as a large cold front draws some of Fiona's tropical moisture well north of the storm, enhancing rainfall into Friday. — Jay Scotland
"Hurricane Fiona is still a major hurricane with sustained wind of 215 km/h and is located just under 2,000 kilometres south of the Island," said Scotland.
"Despite this large distance, we will actually begin to see the early influence of this storm as a large cold front draws some of Fiona's tropical moisture well north of the storm, enhancing rainfall into Friday here on P.E.I."
Hurricane Fiona may become a post-tropical storm before hitting Prince Edward Island, but that doesn't mean people should take it less seriously than a hurricane, Scotland said.
"Rain will become heavier late in the day on Friday as the storm approaches eastern Nova Scotia and winds will increase as well late Friday afternoon and evening. Fiona will transition to a post-tropical storm as it merges with an upper-level trough, shortly before making landfall in eastern Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Friday night into early Saturday morning."
Fiona's forecast track has been moving west in the last couple of days, making its impact on the region stronger than predicted early this week.
The storm is coming. I am not trying to scare anybody, but we need to ready ourselves and make sure we are prepared.— Darlene Compton
"The storm is coming," P.E.I. Minister of Justice and Public Safety Darlene Compton said Thursday. "I am not trying to scare anybody, but we need to ready 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.
With files from Island Morning