Fiona storm knocks out power in Canada

·3-min read

Post-tropical cyclone Fiona has knocked out power to more than 500,000 customers in Canada, damaging homes with strong winds and rain as it made landfall.

Fiona transformed from a hurricane into a post-tropical storm late on Friday, but meteorologists cautioned it still could have hurricane-strength winds and bring drenching rains and huge waves.

More than 414,000 Nova Scotia Power customers -- about 80 per cent of the province of almost 1 million -- were affected by outages on Saturday morning.

Over 82,000 customers in the province of Prince Edward Island were also without power, while NB Power in New Brunswick reported 44,329 were without electricity.

The fast-moving Fiona made Nova Scotia landfall before dawn on Saturday, with its power down from the Category 4 strength it had when passing by Bermuda, though officials there reported no serious damage.

The Canadian Hurricane Centre tweeted early on Saturday that Fiona has the lowest pressure ever recorded for a storm making landfall in Canada. Forecasters had warned it could be the one of the most powerful storms to hit the country.

A state of local emergency was declared by local authorities amid widespread power outages, road closures and damage to homes. The extent of the damage was not immediately clear at sunrise.

A hurricane watch was issued for coastal expanses of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.

"It's going to a bad one," said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who decided to delay his trip to Japan for the funeral for assassinated former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

"We of course hope there won't be much needed, but we feel there probably will be," Trudeau said. "Listen to the instructions of local authorities and hang in there for the next 24 hours."

Hurricanes in Canada are somewhat rare, in part because once the storms reach colder waters, they lose their main source of energy. But post-tropical cyclones still can have hurricane-strength winds, although they have a cold core and no visible eye.

People in the area rushed to stock up essentials and worked to stormproof their properties Friday.

Christina Lamey, a spokesperson for the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, said a sports arena was being opened Friday night to take in residents who wanted to evacuate from their homes during the storm. Halifax said it would open four evacuation centres.

Officials on Prince Edward Island sent out an emergency alert to phones warning of the potential for severe flooding on the northern shore of the province. "Immediate efforts should be taken to protect belongings. Avoid shorelines, waves are extremely dangerous. Residents in those regions should be prepared to move out if needed," the alert read.

Authorities in Nova Scotia also sent an emergency alert to phones warning of Fiona's arrival and urging people to say inside, avoid the shore, charge devices and have enough supplies for at least 72 hours.

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.

Meanwhile, the National Hurricane Centre said newly formed Tropical Storm Ian in the Caribbean was expected to keep strengthening and hit Cuba early Tuesday as a hurricane and then hit southern Florida early Wednesday.