By DÁNICA COTO and ROB GILLIES
CAGUAS, Puerto Rico (AP) — A hurricane that’s expected to transform into a massive post tropical storm will bring hurricane-strength wind, heavy rain and large waves to Atlantic Canada in what meteorologists said Friday has the potential to be one of the most severe storms in the country’s history.
Fiona is due to make landfall Saturday morning. The Canadian Hurricane Centre issued a hurricane watch over extensive coastal expanses of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Fiona should reach the area as a “large and powerful post-tropical cyclone with hurricane-force winds.”
“Where it fits in the history books we will have to make that determination after the fact, but it is certainly going to be a historic, extreme event for Eastern Canada,” said Bob Robichaud, Warning Preparedness Meteorologist for the Canadian Hurricane Centre.
Fiona, currently a category 4, pounded Bermuda with heavy rains and winds Friday as it swept by the island on a route forecast to have it approaching northeastern Canada. Authorities in Bermuda opened shelters and closed schools and offices ahead of Fiona. Michael Weeks, the national security minister, said there had been no reports of major damage.
Robichaud said the center of the storm is expected to arrive in Nova Scotia Saturday morning sometime at just before 9 AM locally, but winds and rains will arrive late Friday.
“It certainly has the potential to be one of the most severe systems to have hit eastern Canada,” said Ian Hubbard, meteorologist for the Canadian Hurricane Centre in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
Authorities in Nova Scotia sent an emergency alert to phones warning of Fiona’s arrival and urging people to say inside, avoid coastlines, charge devices and have enough supplies for at least 72 hours. Officials warned of prolonged power outages, wind damage to trees and structures and coastal flooding and possible road washouts.
Hurricanes in Canada are somewhat rare, in part because once the storms reach colder waters, they lose their main source of energy. and become extratropical. But those cyclones still can have hurricane-strength winds, though with a cold instead of a warm core and no visible eye. Their shape can be different, too. They lose their symmetric form and can more resemble a comma.
The U.S. center said Fiona had maximum sustained winds of 130 mph (215 kph) on Friday. It was centered about 475 miles (770 kilometers) south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, heading northeast at 35 mph (56 kph).
Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 115 miles (185 kilometers) from the center and tropical storm-force winds extended outward up to 345 miles (555 kilometers).
A hurricane warning was in effect for Nova Scotia from Hubbards to Brule; Prince Edward Island; Isle-de-la-Madeleine; and Newfoundland from Parson’s Pond to Francois. Fiona so far has been blamed for at least five deaths — two in Puerto Rico, two in the Dominican Republic and one in the French island of Guadeloupe.
People across Atlantic Canada were stocking up on last-minute essentials and storm-proofing their properties Friday ahead of the arrival
Dave Buis, vice-commodore of the Northern Yacht Club in North Sydney, Nova Scotia, said he is worried about the storm, which is expected to slam the island of Cape Breton.
“Oh definitely, I think this is going to be a bad one,” Buis said. “Hopefully it will slow up when it hits the cooler water, but it doesn’t sound like it’s going to.”
He said he removed his seven-meter sailboat from the water on Thursday and moved it to a storage area behind the yacht club. Another five boat owners did the same, while others at the club lashed down their boats with extra lines.
Meanwhile, the National Hurricane Center said that a tropical depression in the southern Caribbean is expected to hit Cuba early Tuesday as a hurricane and then hit south Florida early Wednesday.
It was located about 615 miles (985 kilometers) east-southeast of Kingston, Jamaica. It had maximum sustained winds of 35 mph (55 kph) and was moving at 13 mph (20 kph).
Before reaching Bermuda, Fiona caused severe flooding and devastation in Puerto Rico, leading U.S. President Joe Biden to say Thursday that the full force of the federal government is ready to help the U.S. territory recover.
Biden noted that hundreds of FEMA and other federal officials are already on the ground in Puerto Rico, where Fiona caused an island-wide blackout.
Gov. Pedro Pierluisi of Puerto Rico activated the National Guard to help distribute diesel fuel to hospitals and supermarkets. The force is also supplying generators used to operate potable water plants and telecommunications towers.
More than 60% of power customers remained without energy Thursday, though efforts to restore power were underway. Many customers were without water, while local officials said they could not say when service would be fully restored.
As of Friday, hundreds of people in Puerto Rico remained isolated by blocked roads five days after the hurricane ripped into the island.
At least five landslides covered the narrow road to her community in the steep mountains around the northern town of Caguas. The only way to reach the settlement was to climb over thick mounds of mud, rock and debris left by Fiona, whose floodwaters shook the foundations of nearby homes with earthquake-like force.
At least eight of the 11 communities in Caguas were completely isolated, said Luis González, municipal inspector of recovery and reconstruction.
It was one of at least six municipalities where crews had yet to reach some areas. People there often depend on help from neighbors, as they did following Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm in 2017 that killed nearly 3,000 people.
Gillies reported from Toronto. Associated Press journalist Maricarmen Rivera Sánchez in San Juan, Puerto Rico, contributed.