The PEI Emergency Measures Organization. now warns that Hurricane Fiona could cause more damage to Prince Edward Island than Hurricane Juan did in 2003.
That’s up from Wednesday, when officials said the oncoming tropical storm system could be “comparable” to Juan.
With the size of Hurricane Fiona, even if the forecast path takes a turn before it hits, Islanders can assume there will be significant impacts from end to end, the director said by acting provincial public safety officer during a Thursday afternoon briefing.
“I think now the certainty is starting to shrink a bit,” Tanya Mullally said. “Storm surge is definitely going to be significant. The words they used with the Canadian Hurricane Center are ‘historic storm surge’ – so, flooding that we haven’t seen and can’t measure.
“We were measuring against Juan yesterday, and now they’re kind of saying, ‘Well, that might not be enough to really prepare us. “”
Fiona is expected to merge with a westerly low pressure system as it hits Atlantic Canadian waters, turning the weather system into a post-tropical storm. But much like Dorian, which had also been downgraded to a post-tropical storm when it hit Prince Edward Island in September 2019, the effects could still be devastating.
Schools open Friday
The provincial EMO will continue to monitor the situation closely and English- and French-language schools in the province are expected to open as normal Friday morning, the Public Schools Branch said in an email late Thursday.
“If Fiona decides to arrive early or if there is a student safety issue that would require early dismissal, we will make a further announcement,” the PSB said in a statement.
Effects from Fiona will include high winds, intense rainfall and coastal flooding with storm surge and very high waves.
The north coast of the island is expected to experience significant storm surge for eight to 10 hours due to prevailing wind direction, according to Mullally.
Winds from the north, then from the northwest
Winds from the storm will move counter-clockwise, so as it passes east of Prince Edward Island, winds will originate from the north before shifting to north- west as the center of the storm moves into the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
“Wave heights of up to eight meters are possible in the western Gulf, and can exceed 10 to 20 meters east toward Cabot Strait with a storm surge of one to two meters possible for the Prince Edward Island,” said CBC meteorologist Jay Scotland.
This could mean washed out roads, flooded basements and damage to coastal properties, docks and dunes.
RAINFALL WARNING and HURRICANE WATCH in effect for all #PEI before #Fiona arrival from Friday evening to Saturday morning. 100-150+ mm of rain with 100-140+ km/h possible gusty northerly winds. Details of the tips can be found here: https://t.co/Ue78XrOwpZ #peistorm #peistorm pic.twitter.com/RjZMeeVH5Q
Earlier Thursday, Environment Canada placed all of Prince Edward Island under a hurricane watch.
“Past storms of this nature have caused prolonged utility outages and structural damage,” Environment Canada warned. “Buildings under construction will be particularly vulnerable.”
A heavy rain warning was issued for all three counties in Prince Edward Island just after 3 p.m. AT Thursday.
We will actually start to see the early influence of this storm as a large cold front pulls some of Fiona’s tropical moisture well to the north of the storm, increasing precipitation through Friday.— Jay Scotland
“Hurricane Fiona is still a major hurricane with sustained winds of 215 km/h and is located just under 2,000 kilometers south of the island,” Scotland said.
“Despite this great distance, we will actually start to see the early influence of this storm as a large cold front pulls some of Fiona’s tropical moisture well to the north of the storm, increasing precipitation through Friday. here on Prince Edward Island”
Hurricane Fiona could become a post-tropical storm before hitting Prince Edward Island, but that doesn’t mean people should take it any less seriously than a hurricane, Scotland said.
“Rain will become heaviest late Friday as the storm approaches eastern Nova Scotia and winds will also increase late Friday afternoon and evening. Fiona will transition to a post-tropical storm then that it will merge with an upper level low, shortly before making landfall in eastern Nova Scotia and Cape Breton from Friday evening to early Saturday morning.”
Fiona’s predicted track has shifted westward over the past two days, making its impact on the region stronger than expected earlier this week.
The storm is coming. I’m not trying to scare anyone, but we have to prepare and make sure we’re ready.— Darlene Compton
“The storm is coming,” Prince Edward Island Justice and Public Safety Minister Darlene Compton said Thursday. “I’m not trying to scare anyone, but we have to prepare and make sure we’re ready.”
Additional support will be provided through the Office of the Fire Marshal to respond to emergencies, she said.
Compton also reminds people to make sure they have an emergency kit of supplies for at least 72 hours.
“We want Islanders to stay home and stay safe until we get the all clear,” Compton said.
The EMO encourages people to stay indoors on Saturday mornings and not go out to see the damage.
Mullally said people had to wait for the storm to pass so emergency vehicles providing cleanup weren’t stranded.
There will be a press conference on Saturday to provide an update on the storm damage and let people know if it’s safe to be on the road, Mullally said.