Powerful post-tropical storm Fiona makes landfall near Canso, N.S.

Fiona, now a post-tropical storm, continues to bring in powerful and destructive winds to parts of the Maritimes with hundreds of thousands of people without power.

The storm landed east of Nova Scotia shortly after 4 a.m. Saturday between Canso and Guysborough.

The Canadian Hurricane Centre in Dartmouth, N.S., said Fiona set an unofficial record for the lowest-ever barometric pressure for a tropical storm making landfall in Canada. The recorded pressure at Hart Island was 931.6 millibars.

WIND TOTALS

Fiona was the equivalent of a Category 1 hurricane when it made landfall, with maximum winds around 150 km/h.

Sustained winds between 60 and 80 km/h were reported early Saturday morning for large areas of Nova Scotia. Extremely high winds were reported in areas of Cape Breton, including Grand Etang with gusts topping 167 km/h.

The Halifax Stanfield International Airport reported a gust of 109 km/h at 3 a.m., and a gust hit 135 km/h at the mouth of Halifax Harbour.

In Sydney, gusts hit 141 km/h at 3 a.m. local time, causing severe damage to some homes.

At the Charlottetown airport, the wind was gusting at 120 km/h at 10 a.m. local time, and a 150 km/h gust was recorded at the eastern edge of theisland at East Point.

POWER OUTAGES

As of 2:30 p.m., more than 384,000 NS Power customers were without electricity. More than 45,000 people in New Brunswick were also in the dark, and more than 82,000 Maritime Electric customers were without power on P.E.I.

Nova Scotia Power says crews started restorations in the western region of the province overnight once wind speeds dropped below 80 km/h.

The utility company says its first priority is keeping customers and crews safe.

“We are seeing significant damage as Fiona moves across the province and it’s important to remember it isn’t over yet. Our crews will be restoring power as quickly as possible, once it is safe to do so,” said the president and CEO of NS Power, Peter Gregg.

Over 800 crew members, including power line technicians, forestry technicians and damage assessors, have been displaced across the province, with hundreds more – like engineers, dispatchers and customer service representatives – working behind the scenes.

DAMAGE AND RESTORATIONS

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston was in Pictou County during the storm. He said the damage in that area is severe.

“Trees down, lots of property damage for sure, some superficial but some very, very significant,” Houston said.

Houston said support from Ottawa has been requested.

“We’ve been in contact with our federal partners, and we have requested military and disaster assistance. So, I have to send a huge thank you to our friends in Ontario who have been instrumental in sending support,” said Houston. “An official request for aid has been made and we have more support and more workers on the way.”

“But this was a dangerous situation overnight, just from what I’m hearing from people and what I experienced here in my home. This was quite a historic storm and it’s definitely not over yet.” 

RCMP members across Nova Scotia responded to “numerous” calls overnight and into Saturday morning. Police say some were routine calls, but the majority have been due to issues with roads, including washouts, downed trees, power lines and debris.

Although the storm is leaving the region, Nova Scotia RCMP Cpl. Chris Marshall says people should still avoid driving.

“If you don’t need to be on the road, we would ask that you please stay off the road,” he says. “Trying to get into a recovery, or a cleanup, phase there’s still going to be high winds, there’s going to be risks to yourself to being out on the roads. So, until the storm is completely cleared, until first responders and emergency crews can get out to clean out those roads, we just ask that you please stay home.”

The City of Charlottetown is also urging people to stay inside unless “absolutely necessary.” The city says crews are working to finalize reception centres for people who cannot stay indoors. They’re also urging people to not go to the centres until it is safe to do so.

A downed tree caused by post-tropical storm Fiona is pictured in Charlottetown. (Source: Twitter/ChtownPolice)

Charlottetown Police Chief Brad MacConnell says his members are prioritizing their calls to emergency situations Saturday morning into the afternoon.

“Getting people shelter that their homes have been compromised or their apartment buildings have been compromised by falling trees,” said MacConnell.

Images from downtown Charlottetown show extensive damage. MacConnell says that devastation is being seen all around the island.

“But certainly, in Charlottetown, we’ve been hit hard here. I don’t think there’s a street that doesn’t have a fallen tree or downed power line, so we certainly are asking people to stay home. It’s not safe to be out and our first responders are very overtasked right now dealing with emergency situations.”

A resident in the Cape Breton community of Westmount says this 60-foot tree missed his trailer by mere inches. (Source: Twitter/Tom Mills)

RAINFALL TOTALS

Initial rainfall reports in the east of Nova Scotia are in excess of 200 millimetres, which includes rain amounts from a system that moved through the Maritimes on Friday.

Heavy rains also wrapped back towards to eastern coastline of New Brunswick, as well as northern and southwestern areas of Nova Scotia.

Final totals have yet to be tallied.

WARNINGS AND RISKS

In an update on CTV News Saturday morning, CTV Atlantic Chief Meteorologist Kalin Mitchell says a risk of storm surgeremains in the eastern part of the Maritimes and into the southwest of Newfoundland.

“A particular concern is the fact that we had some high tide times this morning,” he said. “Now, because we’re going to be getting passed those high tide times and the wind direction starts to change… that risk of storm surge is going to subside later into today, at least for the eastern half of the Maritimes.”

Storm Surge Warnings remain in effect for most of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, southwestern Newfoundland, eastern Nova Scotia and the East Coast of New Brunswick, with waves possibly surpassing 12 metres in eastern portions of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Cabot Strait.

Mitchell says Fiona’s maximum sustained winds were 140 km/h, as of 9 a.m.

“It has slowed its movement towards the north, but it is still moving towards the north,” Mitchell said. “And that’s going to take it up into the Gulf of St. Lawrence.” 

Coastal flooding remains a threat for parts of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island including the Northumberland Strait, the Gulf of St. Lawrence region including Iles-de-la-Madeleine and eastern New Brunswick, southwest Newfoundland, the St. Lawrence Estuary and the Quebec Lower North Shore.

Severe flooding from Fiona is pictured in Burnt Islands, a small coastal community on the southwest coast of Newfoundland. (Courtesy: Scott Burry)

Hurricane and tropical storm warnings remain in effect for most areas.

The most up-to-date weather warnings and watches can be found on Environment Canada‘s website.

With files from The Canadian Press.

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