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Fiona makes landfall in Nova Scotia as the deepest low-pressure system to hit Canada on record

fiona damage nova scotia september 2022

Powerful post-tropical cyclone Fiona made landfall in Atlantic Canada on September 23, 2022, as the deepest low-pressure system ever to hit Canada. Fiona washed away homes and cars, caused major structural damage, and left more than 500 000 customers across the region without power.

Hurricane “Fiona” weakened to a Category 3 hurricane on September 23 and transitioned into a powerful post-tropical cyclone as it approached Canada.

Fiona made landfall in eastern Nova Scotia at around 09:00 UTC on Saturday, September 24, with maximum sustained winds of 150 km/h (90 mph) and a minimum central pressure of 931 hPa – making it the deepest low-pressure system to hit Canada on record.

Its center then moved into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and then across Labrador and over the Labrador Sea on Sunday.

post-tropical cyclone fiona at 13z on september 24 2022 bg
Post-tropical cyclone Fiona at 13:00 UTC on September 24, 2022. Credit: NOAA/GOES-East, Zoom Earth, The Watchers

“When looking at Fiona, you kind of get that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, and it’s something as a meteorologist you don’t get all too often,” says Tyler Hamilton, a meteorologist at The Weather Network (TWN).1

This is not just a hurricane… it’s more like a hurricane and a nor’easter combined, TWN said. It’s like comparing the intensity of Hurricane Juan, which was the most devastating storm to hit the Maritime provinces, combined with the size of Hurricane Dorian, a massive storm that set a record for the most people without power at one time.

Reports released on September 25 mention more than 20 homes destroyed in Newfoundland and hundreds of displaced people.

The damage in Port aux Basques was striking on Sunday morning, with boulders and debris scattered across the community. Metal guard rails on some causeways were ripped out and twisted by the waves on Saturday.2

Residents were using shovels to dig through the rubble, looking for anything salvageable. Some have lost everything — including heirlooms and family photos. One woman ran away from her home sobbing, unable to bear the devastation any longer, CBC reported.

CBC meteorologist Ashley Brauweiler said while the winds in Port aux Basques were significant, the bulk of the damage was caused by storm surge. “When it came in, it came in so fast,” she said.

Brauweiler said models predicted 16 m (52 feet) waves, but the maximum wave height may have been double.

“All of that combined was catastrophic,” she said.

Police said they had received reports of two people in Port aux Basques, N.L., being swept out of residences that collapsed into the sea as Fiona hit. RCMP Cpl. Jolene Garland said one woman was rescued by local residents and is believed to be fine after receiving medical attention.3

“We have a report about another woman who was believed to be swept out into the ocean as her residence was damaged as well — apparently swept out from the basement,” Garland said. “We haven’t been able to verify a status on that woman.”

Garland said Saturday’s stormy conditions made it too dangerous for searchers to try finding the woman.

Environment Canada meteorologist Melissa Field said the storm set a record-high for water levels in Port aux Basques at 2.73 m (8.9 feet) — about 1 m (3.3 feet) higher than the normal water level.2

Field said on Saturday, peak gusts of wind reached 177 km/h (110 mph) in the Wreckhouse area, 134 km/h (83 mph) in Port aux Basques, 110 km/h in Burgeo (68 mph), and 109 (67 mph)in Stephenville.

About 77 mm (3 inches) of rain fell in the Port aux Basques and Wreckhouse areas, 47 mm (1.8 inches) in the Stephenville area and 30 mm (1.2 inches) in the Burgeo area. 

While damage is still being assessed, Fiona is blamed for at least 6 deaths since it formed – 1 in Guadeloupe, 4 in Puerto Rico, and 1 in the Dominican Republic.

References:

1 Hurricane Fiona rapidly nearing historic Atlantic Canada landfall – The Weather Network – September 24, 2022

2 Southwestern Newfoundland grapples with catastrophic aftermath of Fiona – CBC – September 25, 2022

3 Military to be deployed to Nova Scotia to assist recovery after Fiona lashes region – City News – September 25, 2022

Featured image credit: CTV News (stillshot)

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