Hurricane Fiona hit Bermuda with torrential rain early Friday as a Category 4 storm headed toward northeastern Canada.
The US National Hurricane Center said the storm’s center was passing northwest Bermuda on Friday morning with maximum sustained winds approaching 125 mph with higher gusts. She added that the storm was downgraded to a Category 3 hurricane as it made its way across the island, and was upgraded again to Category 4 a few hours later.
Now, it has its sights set on the Atlantic Ocean for Canada, where the strength of the storm will be historic for that region.
The Canadian Hurricane Center said Fiona was expected to reach offshore Nova Scotia waters Friday evening, with “heavy rain” and “strong hurricane winds” expected to hit Atlantic Canada and eastern Quebec beginning Friday night.
“This storm is shaping up to be a severe event in Atlantic Canada and eastern Quebec,” it said on its website in an update early Friday. “Many weather models are consistent in their prediction of what we call a deep hybrid low pressure system, which has the characteristics of a tropical and intense winter storm, with heavy rainfall and high winds.”
The hurricane now has maximum sustained winds of 130 miles per hour with higher gusts, is located 475 miles south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and is moving northeast at 35 miles per hour, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The center of Fiona is expected to approach Nova Scotia later Friday, moving north into the Gulf of St. Lawrence on Saturday, then north into Labrador and over the Labrador Sea on Sunday, according to the National Hurricane Center.
“Although gradual weakening is expected, Hurricane Fiona is expected to be strong as it moves across Atlantic Canada,” the National Hurricane Center said.
Hurricanes in Canada are relatively rare, with storms typically losing their main source of energy when they hit colder waters.
However, Canada’s east coast has seen such storms before, including Hurricane Juan in 2003, which severely affected parts of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island and resulted in multiple deaths, according to the Canadian Hurricane Center. The storm also caused widespread power outages, extensive damage to trees and led to record levels of coastal waters, it added.
The North Atlantic, where Fiona is headed, also represents some of the fastest warming waters in the world, with rising sea surface temperatures in the region attributed to climate change.
The hurricane center said high winds and rain forecast with Fiona would have “significant impacts” over eastern Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, western Newfoundland, eastern Quebec and southeastern Labrador.
“There will also be big waves, especially on the Atlantic coasts of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and the eastern parts of the Gulf of St. Lawrence,” the hurricane center said. He also warned of the potential for a “storm storm” or abnormal rising waters from a storm in parts of Nova Scotia, western Newfoundland and the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. This could lead to coastal flooding of parts of Atlantic Canada and “large and destructive waves” to the coast.
3 to 6 inches of rain is expected in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and western Newfoundland, and it can be up to 10 inches in some areas. The National Hurricane Center said Newfoundland and eastern Quebec could receive up to 2 to 5 inches of rain, while eastern New Brunswick could receive 1 to 3 inches.
The Hurricane Center also warned of the possibility of trees falling and power outages, noting that “most areas will witness hurricane-force winds.” She said construction sites may be “particularly vulnerable” to the storm.
Fiona left great devastation in its wake, including eight suspected storm-related deaths in Puerto Rico, one confirmed death in the Dominican Republic, and another death in Guadeloupe.
In Puerto Rico, many residents are still without electricity and access to clean drinking water as recovery efforts continue after homes were destroyed, trees destroyed and roads blocked by the hurricane.
As of early Friday, at least 928,000 customers have been affected by power outages across Puerto Rico, according to internet tracker PowerOutage.us.
Speaking Thursday with FEMA officials in New York, President Joe Biden said hundreds of FEMA and other federal officials are working on the ground to help with response efforts in Puerto Rico.
“We are all in this together,” the president said, expressing concern that many homes and businesses remain without electricity, as well as clean drinking water.
Biden also noted that Fiona’s devastation came exactly five years after Hurricane Maria, the deadliest US natural disaster in more than 100 years, that hit Puerto Rico.
He said, “To the people of Puerto Rico who are still hurt by Hurricane Maria five years later, we are with you. We won’t quit. We mean it.”
Mirna Alsharif Contributed.