Hurricane Fiona hammered Bermuda with heavy rains early Friday as the Category 4 storm marches toward northeastern Canada.
The center of the storm was passing northwest of Bermuda by Friday morning with maximum sustained winds nearing 125 mph, with higher gusts, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. The storm was downgraded to a Category 3 hurricane as it made its way past the island, then upgraded again to Category 4 a few hours later, it said.
Now, it has its sights set on Atlantic Canada, where the strength of the storm will be historic for that region.
The Canadian Hurricane Centre said Fiona was expected to reach the waters of the maritime province of Nova Scotia by Friday evening, with “heavy rainfall” and powerful “hurricane force winds” expected to hit Atlantic Canada and eastern Quebec starting Friday night.
“This storm is shaping up to be a severe event for Atlantic Canada and eastern Quebec,” it said on its website in an update early Friday. “Numerous weather models are consistent in their prediction of what we call a deep hybrid low pressure system, possessing both tropical and intense winter storm properties, with very heavy rainfall and severe 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 around 35 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The center of Fiona is forecasted to approach Nova Scotia later on Friday, move north into the Gulf of St. Lawrence on Saturday, and then further north into Labrador and over the Labrador Sea on Sunday, according to the National Hurricane Center.
“Although gradual weakening is forecast, Fiona is expected to be a powerful hurricane-force cyclone when it moves across Atlantic Canada,” said the National Hurricane Center.
Hurricanes in Canada are relatively rare, with storms typically losing their main source of energy as they hit colder waters.
However, Canada’s eastern coast has seen such storms before, including Hurricane Juan in 2003, which heavily affected 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, major tree damage and delivered record coastal water levels, it said.
The North Atlantic, where Fiona is headed, also represents some of the fastest warming waters in the world, with the warming sea surface temperatures in the region attributed to climate change.
The hurricane center said the severe winds and rain expected to come with Fiona would have “major impacts” for eastern Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, western Newfoundland, eastern Quebec and southeastern Labrador.
“There will also be large waves, especially for the Atlantic coasts of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and eastern portions of the Gulf of St. Lawrence,” the hurricane center said. It also warned of that high possibility of a “storm surge,” or an abnormal rise of water caused by a storm, in parts of Nova Scotia, western Newfoundland and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This could bring coastal flooding 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 up to 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 downed trees and power outages, noting that “most regions will experience hurricane force winds.” It said construction sites could also be “particularly vulnerable” to the storm.
Fiona has left major devastation in its wake, including eight deaths suspected of being connected 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 recovery efforts continue after homes were destroyed, trees downed and roads blocked by the hurricane.
As of early Friday, at least 928,000 customers were affected by power outages across Puerto Rico, according to the online tracker PowerOutage.us.
Speaking at a Thursday briefing 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 help assist in the response efforts in Puerto Rico.
“We’re all in this together,” the president said, as he expressed concern that many homes and businesses were still without power, as well as clean drinking water.
Biden also noted that Fiona’s devastation came exactly five years after Hurricane Maria, the deadliest U.S. natural disaster in over 100 years, hit Puerto Rico.
“To the people of Puerto Rico who are still hurting from Hurricane Maria five years later,” he said, “we are with you. We’re not going to walk away. We mean it.”
Mirna Alsharif contributed.