After lashing Bermuda with high winds and heavy rain, Hurricane Fiona moved away from the island on Friday and headed north toward Canada’s Atlantic provinces, where officials were preparing emergency shelters and warning residents about the strengthening storm.
Fiona, the strongest storm of the Atlantic hurricane season so far, was about 250 miles north of Bermuda, and about 600 miles south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, at 11 a.m. Eastern time, the National Hurricane Center said.
It was moving at 35 miles per hour and producing maximum sustained winds of 130 m.p.h., gaining strength slightly from earlier on Friday, the Hurricane Center said.
A hurricane warning was in effect for Nova Scotia and other parts of Atlantic Canada and Eastern Quebec, areas that the storm was expected to approach later on Friday as a “post-tropical” cyclone.
It will bring heavy rainfall and powerful hurricane-force winds as it moves across Nova Scotia early Saturday morning before pushing into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. On Sunday, Fiona will bear down on Labrador and the Labrador Sea.
Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and western Newfoundland could receive three to six inches of rain, with up to 10 inches possible in some areas, the Hurricane Center said.
“This rainfall could result in areas of flooding, some of which may be significant in nature,” the center said. Newfoundland and eastern Quebec could be doused with two to five inches of rain, while eastern New Brunswick was forecast to receive one to three inches.
Forecasters said on Friday that there was a substantial risk of rip currents along the entire East Coast of the United States because of the hurricane.
Hurricane or tropical storm warnings from the Canadian government were in effect as of 3 a.m. Eastern time on Friday for parts of Atlantic Canada and eastern Quebec. Officials said waves in some parts of the Gulf of St. Lawrence could be as about 39 feet.
On Friday, emergency management officials in Nova Scotia warned residents of the danger of storm surges and shared locations of evacuation centers and shelters that would be open on Friday afternoon. The provincial government in Prince Edward Island issued warnings of flooding, downed trees, power outages and damage to docks and buildings.
In Bermuda, officials and residents were beginning to assess the storm’s impact. The island’s weather service said some areas had experienced hurricane-force winds early Friday, including a 100-m.p.h. gust on the western side of the island. Tropical storm conditions were expected to linger for several hours, although the rainfall was tapering off.
Emergency crews were assessing roads, some of which were obstructed early on Friday. There were downed power lines and trees, but no reports of major property damage.
“The closest point of Fiona has passed us, and I think we have come through this here in pretty good shape,” Michael Weeks, Bermuda’s minister of national security, said in a statement on Facebook on Friday.
As of early Friday, about 29,000 customers were without power across the island, according to Belco, Bermuda’s sole supplier of electricity. The company said on its website that its crews would not be able to restore power until storm conditions subsided. Public schools and government offices were closed on Friday.
A government official said Bermuda had built up a robust system to deal with hurricanes, which he said have been “growing more frequent and certainly more destructive” over the last 20 years.
“We have a very rigid planning regime that ensures that most of our structures are built to hurricane-strength levels, and this has stood the test of time for Bermuda,” said Walter Roban, the minister of home affairs.
Fiona, which formed as a tropical storm Sept. 15, has battered parts of the Caribbean in the past week, including Puerto Rico, which experienced widespread power outages. As of early Friday, about 928,000 customers in Puerto Rico were still without electricity, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks interruptions.
Gov. Pedro R. Pierluisi of Puerto Rico said earlier this week that it would take at least a week for his government to estimate how much damage Fiona had caused. The rain in parts of central, southern and southeastern Puerto Rico had been “catastrophic,” he said at a news conference.
At least four deaths have been attributed to Fiona: two in the Dominican Republic and one each in Puerto Rico and Guadeloupe, which was struck by the storm on Saturday.
Forecasters were monitoring two other weather systems in the Atlantic: Tropical Storm Gaston, which formed on Tuesday, and a tropical depression that formed early Friday and would become Tropical Storm Hermine if it strengthens much further.
Gaston was 135 miles north-northwest of the Azores in the North Atlantic early Friday, with maximum sustained winds of 60 m.p.h. The storm’s center was expected to move near or over portions of the Azores from Friday night through Saturday, the Hurricane Center said. Gaston was forecast to begin to weaken over the next few days, though a tropical storm warning was in effect for parts of the Azores.
The tropical depression was about 600 miles east-southeast of Jamaica on Friday morning and moving west-northwest at 13 m.p.h., according to the Hurricane Center.
The Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June through November, had a relatively quiet start, with only three named storms before Sept. 1 and none during August, the first time that had happened since 1997. Storm activity picked up in early September with Danielle and Earl, which formed within a day of each other.
The links between hurricanes and climate change have become clearer with each passing year. Data shows that hurricanes have become stronger worldwide over the past four decades. A warming planet can expect stronger hurricanes over time and a higher incidence of the most powerful storms — though the overall number of storms may drop, because factors like stronger wind shear could keep some weaker storms from forming.
Hurricanes are also becoming wetter because there is more water vapor in the warmer atmosphere; storms like Hurricane Harvey in 2017 produced far more rain than they would have without human effects on the climate, scientists have suggested. Also, rising sea levels are contributing to higher storm surges, the most destructive elements of tropical cyclones.
In early August, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued an updated forecast for the rest of the season, which still predicted an above-normal level of activity.
In it, they said that the season could include 14 to 20 named storms, with six to 10 turning into hurricanes that could sustain winds of at least 74 m.p.h. Three to five of those could strengthen into what the agency calls major hurricanes — Category 3 or stronger — with winds of at least 111 m.p.h.
Last year, there were 21 named storms, after a record-breaking 30 in 2020. For the past two years, meteorologists have exhausted the list of names used to identify storms during the Atlantic hurricane season, an occurrence that had happened only one other time, in 2005.
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