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The fearsome Hurricane Fiona could be the strongest storm in Canadian history

Alexandra Ferguson

(CNN) — Canadians are bracing for what could be the strongest storm to hit their country’s coast.

Hurricane Fiona has battered the Caribbean, is forecast to brush past Bermuda as a dangerous Category 3 storm and shows no signs of slowing down before reaching Canada on Saturday morning.

Hurricane Fiona reaches category 4 and moves north leaving a trail of destruction

“This could be the Canadian version of Hurricane Sandy,” said Chris Fogarty, a meteorologist with the Canadian Hurricane Center, noting Fiona’s size and intensity and its combination of hurricane and winter storm characteristics. Hurricane Sandy affected 24 states and the entire eastern seaboard, causing an estimated $78.7 billion in damage.

Fiona was about 1,200 miles southwest of Halifax, Nova Scotia on Thursday morning, but that area is already bracing for a rare and historic impact.

“Take it seriously because we see numbers on our weather maps that are rarely seen here,” Fogarty said.

Strong gusts of wind are forecast as Fiona makes landfall in Canada.

The lowest pressure ever recorded in Canada was 940 millibars in January 1977 in Newfoundland, said Brian Tang, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University at Albany. “Current weather forecast models indicate that Fiona will make landfall in eastern Nova Scotia with pressure between 925 and 935 millibars, which would easily set a new record,” he said.

A pressure of 920 to 944 millibars is what a category 4 hurricane usually has.

Many meteorologists, including Fogarty, compare this storm to Hurricane Juan in 2003, which hit the Canadian coast as a Category 2 storm.

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“That storm was much smaller. This is huge,” Fogarty said.

What types of hurricanes are there and what do categories 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 mean?

The storm’s hurricane-force winds extend 112 kilometers in any direction from its center, and tropical storm-force winds extend more than 300 kilometers. That means a track 225 kilometers wide could experience hurricane force winds and an area over 600 kilometers wide could experience tropical storm force winds.

And Fiona could grow even bigger by the time the storm hits Canada, according to Tang.

Fiona’s Impacts

Fiona is expected to reach Atlantic Canada on Friday evening, but the region will begin to experience deteriorating conditions early on Friday.

Here is the latest update on #Hurricane #Fiona. Hurricane Fiona has the potential to be a landmark weather event in Eastern Canada this weekend, and we encourage the public to continue to monitor the forecasts regularly. Read the new bulletins at: https://t.co/QURfkCQp7W pic.twitter.com/RSdj9L75RI — ECCC Canadian Hurricane Centre (@ECCC_CHC) September 22, 2022

“Fiona is purely a hurricane right now. As it begins to interact with a cold weather system and a jet stream, it will transition into a superstorm with characteristics of both a hurricane and a strong fall cyclone with gale-force winds, very heavy rains, and large storm surges and waves,” Tang said. .

How you can help the victims of Hurricane Fiona

The National Hurricane Center forecasts that the storm “will continue to produce gale-force winds as it moves across Nova Scotia and into the Gulf of St. Lawrence.” In fact, the storm could still produce winds of more than 160 km/h when it makes landfall.

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Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and western Newfoundland could get up to 6 inches of rain, with some areas up to 10 inches. This could cause significant flash flooding.

“We want people to take this very seriously and be prepared for a long period of power outages and structural damage to buildings,” Fogarty explained.

Large swells and waves are forecast in the region that could endanger people’s lives.

Some of the waves in the eastern parts of the Gulf of St. Lawrence could exceed one meter in height, and in the western Gulf there will be northerly waves of up to 66 centimeters in places, likely causing significant erosion on north-facing beaches. from Prince Edward Island, the Canadian Hurricane Center said.

The hurricane center also warns of coastal flooding, especially during high tide.

Nova Scotia and Cape Breton had not been affected by such an intense storm in approximately 50 years. Both were winter storms, in 1974 and 1976, Fogarty said. Many people don’t even remember those two storms, so forecasters are trying to send a clear message for residents to prepare.

CNN Meteorologist Judson Jones contributed to this report.

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