Hurricane warnings issued for PEI as Fiona is expected to cause major damage

  • CBC News will have special coverage of the arrival of Hurricane Fiona starting Friday at 8 pm AT on CBC Radio One with updates every hour, on the hour, with Cassie Williams in Halifax until 10 pm and CBC PEI’s Wayne Thibodeau through the night. We will also have digital updates throughout the weekend. A special extended version of Atlantic Tonight on Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 6 pm will include complete coverage of Hurricane Fiona and the aftermath from around the region.

Environment Canada made it official early Friday: Hurricane Fiona will almost certainly slam into Prince Edward Island as a storm with Category 1 winds and torrential rain.

The weather agency posted hurricane warnings for all three of the province’s counties, as well as rainfall, wind and storm surge warnings.

That will mean:

  • Hurricane-force winds of 100 km/h gusting to 140 km/h at exposed locations, pushing even higher at the coast with gusts of 160 km/h.
  • A storm surge of 1.8 to 2.4 meters and dangerous waves ranging from 11 to 15 meters in height on Saturday morning to coincide with the arrival of high tide.
  • “Intense and torrential” rainfall amounting to 50 to 100 mm in all, with some locations possibly receiving 150 mm.

“Rainfall amounts will be staggering,” CBC meteorologist Tina Simpkin said on Friday morning. “Storm surge is also going to be a huge issue and you can bet that Fiona is going to change the look of the coastline.

An Environment Canada statement issued at 8:40 am AT gave more erosion context: “The western Gulf will see waves from the north up to 8 meters in places, which will probably cause significant erosion for north facing beaches of Prince Edward Island. de-la-Madeleine will also see some coastal erosion from waves.”

Kings County in the east will likely get the most rain, and Queens and Kings counties will experience the worst winds, Environment Canada said.

“Rainfall rates in excess of 25 mm per hour are possible beginning tonight and will continue into Saturday,” the agency said.

How to prepare for a storm like Fiona

Officials are urging people in Atlantic Canada in the path of Hurricane Fiona to make emergency preparations, including having enough food and water on hand for several days.

Winds in eastern Cape Breton and southwest Newfoundland east of the eye will likely get gusts to near Category 2 hurricane level, which is 160 km/h.

“Over PEI and parts of northern Nova Scotia, the winds will be much colder and from the northwest and could gust up to 140 or 150 km/h.”

Environment Canada was blunt about the possible impact.

“These winds could cause significant tree fall and result in extended utility outages. Damage to building cladding and roofing material is likely, including structural damage in certain cases. Winds of this strength could cause windows to break and tear off large overhead highway signs.”

A woman in a blue shirt sits in front of a microphone.
Darlene Compton, the province’s minister of justice and public safety, will be part of daily briefings about Fiona before and after the storm hits. (Province of PEI)

The warning also said Fiona “will result in damage to docks and breakwaters. Significant shoreline erosion and large waves are expected where winds blow onshore.”

People who must venture outdoors during the storm are being warned to watch out for wind-blown debris and downed power lines, among other risks.

“Stay away from the shore — the combination of surge and large waves could result in dangerous rip currents and the risk of being pulled out to sea,” Environment Canada said.

No federal aid requested yet

Fresh out of a cabinet briefing on the storm, provincial Justice and Public Safety Minister Darlene Compton said it’s too soon to talk about whether PEI will request federal help for a cleanup.

“We’ll exhaust all of our resources in PEI [before we] reach out to our federal counterparts,” she told CBC News Network at noon Friday.

An Environment Canada map showing hurricane-force winds extending across Prince Edward Island by 3 am AT on Saturday. (Environment Canada)

“As Islanders, we band together,” she added. “This is not our first storm and won’t be our last.”

Her advice for residents: “Make sure you check on your neighbors, [see] that they are safe or reach out to the province to make sure that they get what they need.”

Friday weather not indicative of strength

Friday dawned damp and breezy, which had Tanya Mullally from the province’s Emergency Measures Organization warning Islanders not to drop their guard, thinking that indicates Fiona’s arrival will be mild.

“You will see rain and wind. That’s not quite Fiona yet,” she said.

You will see rain and wind. That’s not quite Fiona yet.— Tanya Mullally

“We are going to be experiencing a low system that’s kind of moving across Canada into Atlantic Canada and that’s actually what’s kind of sucking Fiona in over the Maritimes and onto PEI

“Fiona really won’t be felt, if I could say that, ’til later on Friday evening and in the overnight hours.”

As of noon AT, Fiona was a Category 4 storm passing northwest of Bermuda with maximum sustained winds of 215 km/h, after causing severe flooding in the Caribbean islands it touched and killed at least eight people in Puerto Rico.

Travel impacts

Because of Fiona, the Confederation Bridge is warning of travel restrictions, starting tonight around 9 pm and lasting until early Sunday morning.

Northumberland Ferries has canceled the 3:30, 5 and 7 pm AT sailings from Wood Islands and the 1:30, 5:15 and 6:30 pm AT sailings from Caribou, NS All crossings on Saturday are canceled and the company expects disruption on Sunday as well.

Lineups were long outside Island Waste Watch in Charlottetown on Thursday as people rushed to drop off unwanted items from around their properties in advance of weekend winds that could turn them into projectiles. (CBC)

So far, Air Canada has canceled one of its Friday flights into Charlottetown, AC1570 from Montreal, usually expected at 11:30 pm All Air Canada flights to and from Charlottetown scheduled for Saturday are off, as well as the airline’s first Sunday morning flight.

For more information on what disruptions are being announced due to the storm, click here: Hurricane Fiona: What’s open and closed on PEI

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