Hurricane Fiona hammered Bermuda with heavy rainfall early on Friday as the Category 4 storm moves into northeastern Canada.
The center of the storm passed northwest of Bermuda Friday morning with maximum sustained winds near 125 mph, with higher gusts, the US National Hurricane Center said. The storm was downgraded to a Category 3 hurricane as it made its way past the island and upgraded back to Category 4 a few hours later.
Now it has its sights set on Atlantic Canada, where the storm’s strength will be historic for that region.
The Canadian Hurricane Center said Fiona is expected to reach the waters of the maritime province of Nova Scotia Friday evening, with “heavy rainfall” and strong “hurricane-force winds” expected to hit Atlantic Canada and eastern Quebec from Friday evening.
“This storm will be a serious event for Atlantic Canada and eastern Quebec,” it said on its website in an update early Friday. “Numerous weather models are consistent in predicting what we call a deep hybrid low pressure system, with both tropical and intense winter storm features, with very heavy rainfall and high winds.”
The hurricane now has maximum sustained winds of 130 mph with even higher gusts and is 475 miles south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, moving northeast at about 35 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.
According to the National Hurricane Center, downtown Fiona is expected to approach Nova Scotia later on Friday, head north into the Gulf of St. Lawrence on Saturday, and then continue north into Labrador and across the Labrador Sea.
“While a gradual weakening is forecast, Fiona is expected to be a powerful hurricane-force cyclone as it moves across Atlantic Canada,” the National Hurricane Center said.
Hurricanes in Canada are relatively rare, with storms usually losing their main source of energy as they hit colder waters.
Canada’s east coast, however, has experienced such storms before, including Hurricane Juan in 2003, which severely hit parts of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island and resulted in multiple deaths, according to Canada’s Hurricane Center. The storm also caused widespread power outages, extensive damage to trees and set record water levels on the coast, it said.
The North Atlantic, which Fiona is heading to, also represents some of the fastest warming waters in the world, with the region’s warming sea surface temperatures being attributed to climate change.
The hurricane center said the strong winds and rain expected to come with Fiona will have “major effects” on eastern Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, western Newfoundland, eastern Quebec and southeastern Labrador.
“There will also be big waves, especially off the Atlantic coasts of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and eastern parts of the Gulf of St. Lawrence,” the hurricane center said. It also warned of the high probability of a “storm surge,” or an abnormal rise in water caused by a storm, in parts of Nova Scotia, western Newfoundland and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This can lead to flooding from the coast to parts of Atlantic Canada and “large and destructive waves” to the coast.
Rainfall of 3 to 6 inches is forecast for Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and western Newfoundland, and can reach 10 inches in some areas. Newfoundland and eastern Quebec can receive up to 2 to 5 inches of rain, while eastern New Brunswick can receive 1 to 3 inches, the National Hurricane Center said.
The Hurricane Center also warned of the possibility of fallen trees and power outages, noting that “most regions will experience hurricane strength.” It said construction sites could also be “particularly vulnerable” to the storm.
Fiona has left major devastation, including eight deaths believed to be related to the storm in Puerto Rico, one confirmed death in the Dominican Republic and another confirmed death in Guadeloupe.
In Puerto Rico, much of the population is still without power and access to clean drinking water, as rehabilitation work continues after homes have been destroyed, trees downed and roads blocked by the hurricane.
At least 928,000 customers were affected by power outages in Puerto Rico early Friday, according to online tracker PowerOutage.us.
During a briefing Thursday with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials in New York, President Joe Biden said hundreds of FEMA and other federal officials were working on the ground to assist with response efforts in Puerto Rico.
“We’re all in this together,” the president said, expressing concern that many homes and businesses still had no power, as well as clean drinking water.
Biden also noted that Fiona’s devastation hit Puerto Rico exactly five years after Hurricane Maria, the deadliest U.S. natural disaster in more than 100 years.
“To the people of Puerto Rico who are still hurting from Hurricane Maria five years later,” he said, “we’re with you. We’re not going to run away. We’re serious.”
Mirna Alsharif contributed.