Canada is bracing for what could be one of the strongest storms ever to touch down on the country, as the category 3 Hurricane Fiona makes its way up the Atlantic coast.
The Canadian Hurricane Center said the storm would make landfall in eastern Nova Scotia as a powerful post-tropical storm early on Saturday, bringing with it heavy rain, powerful winds and storm surges.
Forecasters warned that the storm could affect a swath of the country, including Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, south-eastern New Brunswick, western and south-western Newfoundland, and some parts of Quebec bordering the Gulf of St Lawrence.
“Most regions will experience hurricane-force winds. These severe winds will begin impacting the region late Friday and will continue on Saturday. Similar cyclones of this nature have produced structural damage to buildings,” the center said.
Heavy rains and flooding are expected, especially to the north and west of the storm, which left more than a million people without power in Puerto Rico as it churned across the Caribbean.
“It certainly has the potential to be one of the most severe systems to have hit eastern Canada,” Ian Hubbard, a meteorologist for the Canadian Hurricane Center, told the Associated Press.
On Friday, Hurricane Fiona touched down on Bermuda, hitting the island with heavy rain and high winds. Authorities in the area opened shelters and closed schools, reports the AP.
“We are not out of the woods yet,” said Michael Weeks, the country’s security minister, adding that there were no major reports of damage, but that citizens should remain indoors and stay off the roads.
In Canada, a hurricane watch has been issued over much of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.
The US National Hurricane Center reported that the hurricane could reach the area as a “large and powerful post-tropical cyclone with hurricane-force winds”.
Emergency notifications about the storm have been sent in Nova Scotia, with authorities warning people to stay inside, charge devices and avoid coastlines as wind damage and power outages are possible.
Local residents have also been preparing for the impending storm, reported CBC, sharing a number of storm prepping techniques on social media, such as keeping extra batteries on hand and using ice to keep food cold in case of a power outage.
Meteorologists are especially concerned about the potential damage from storm surges in coastal areas.
“We’re looking at the potential for maybe near or even the highest water levels they’ve ever seen, so that could be quite, quite dangerous, quite damaging,” Environment Canada’s meteorologist Rob Carroll told CBC.
Hurricanes in Canada are rare, with storms usually losing their power as they reach colder waters. But the storm heading towards Canada still has hurricane-level winds.
Officials have continued preparing, readying shelters for people to use before the storm touches down.
“We have been through these types of events before, but my fear is, not to this extent,” Amanda McDougall, mayor of Cape Breton Regional Municipality told the AP.
“The impacts are going to be large, real and immediate.”