As Hurricane Fiona moves into Atlantic Canada, emergency officials in the region are asking residents to heed their advice.
The storm is forecast to enter Atlantic Canadian waters on Friday night and make landfall in the region on Saturday morning.
In Nova Scotia, the minister responsible for emergency management says Fiona’s impact has the potential to be “very dangerous”.
“Impacts are expected to be felt across the province,” said John Lohr. “All Nova Scotians should brace themselves today and prepare for impact.”
Severe and damaging winds are expected to cause widespread power outages.
Nova Scotia Power COO David Pickles says the company will open its emergency operations center on Friday and have a crew of more than 800 on standby.
“We know it’s a very major wind event, the trees are still in full bloom, the trees and branches will fall and that will cause power outages,” says Pickles.
Construction sites are also a cause for concern, not only because of loose materials flying through the air, but also because of the 32 or so tower cranes that dot the Halifax skyline.
It was during post-tropical storm Dorian when a crane fell on a building where it was installed. Nobody was hurt.
People may see a tower crane spinning, but experts say that’s the intent.
“When not in operation, the crane is allowed to tilt or rotate freely in the wind to minimize any wind loads on it,” said Jeff Dolan, director of Technical Safety for the province.
There are several tented encampments in Halifax and outreach workers are making the rounds to inform those living on the streets of emergency shelter options, including one in Dartmouth set to open Friday, along with another in Sackville.
Halifax Mayor Mike Savage urges residents to prepare.
“This storm is going to hit us, and it’s going to hit us in the face, so we have to be prepared,” Savage said.
People are encouraged to have enough food and supplies for 72 hours. Officials say those living in coastal communities should be ready to leave if an evacuation order is issued at short notice.
Further north in the province, Cape Breton could be leading the regional race to prepare for Hurricane Fiona, given the storm’s current track.
Justin Green, whose company helps install sump pumps, has been preparing many clients for the impending weather.
“We’ve definitely been overwhelmed,” says Green. “We have been busy preparing to try to gather materials here. It’s been crazy.
CTV News spoke with Lawrence Wilson Thursday afternoon while trimming trees on his property.
“Some big, heavy branches were sticking out to the south, so I just cleaned them up,” Wilson said.
Gary Leblanc, who works for a property restoration company, says the lack of workers worries him he won’t be able to keep up with demand for potential hurricane cleanups.
“We have seen so many times where [hurricanes] it will go to the right towards the sea, but this one doesn’t seem to be doing that and it’s making me very nervous,” says Leblanc.
Crews across Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM) have been busy making sure sewer lines are clear and ready for heavy rain.
“Over time, it builds up and eventually comes to the surface,” says Mark Monaghan, who works for the municipality. “When that happens, roads are flooded and people get water at their homes.”
Waves of up to 15 meters, or 50 feet, could hit parts of the Cape Breton coastline.
One popular part of the coastline that is always at risk is Dominion Beach, after being heavily damaged by storm surge and coastal erosion.
CBRM Councilman Darren Bruckschwaiger, who has spearheaded efforts to save the beach, says he is particularly concerned about potential damage from Hurricane Fiona.
The first phase of a project to preserve the beach added a rock wall to protect its parking lot and a building behind it. However, Bruckschwaiger says the barrier may not be able to do much in a storm the size of Fiona.
Bruckschwaiger says that while he has seen severe storms damage the beach in the past, “this one here is the one that scares me.”
“Depending on the direction of the wind, and they say it’s turning, there’s a chance it could turn toward the beach. If you understand that, we are in serious trouble,” she said.
Bruckschwaiger is asking would-be surf spotters to avoid the beach during the storm.
PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
Like Cape Breton, parts of Prince Edward Island could be affected by the worst weather. Aside from the wind and rain, a storm surge threatens to cause damage.
Strong waves are expected to hit the shorelines, particularly along the north coast of the island.
“The words they were using, with the Canadian Hurricane Center, is ‘historic storm surge,’ flooding that we haven’t seen and can’t measure,” said Tanya Mullally, director of the PEI Emergency Response Organization.
“We were measuring against [Hurricane] John yesterday. And now, they say, ‘Well, that may not be enough,'” he said.
Strong winds are also a concern for the island’s capital city, densely forested Charlottetown. Officials say full canopies and rain-weakened root systems make the trees likely to topple.
In response to the heightened concerns, the province raised its emergency response to level two.
“What that means is that we are bringing more partners to the table,” says PEI Minister of Public Safety Darlene Compton. “Government departments such as social development and housing, transportation, municipalities, ITSS. We are also listening to public safety in Canada.”
Efforts were under way Thursday to move a homeless encampment near a downtown Charlottetown university to another site, while plans for larger shelters are in the works.
New Brunswick is also preparing. Its emergency measures organization says the focus is in the southeastern part of the province.
There is concern about storm surge in the Shediac area and along the coast. NB Power says it is anticipating impacts to the power grid, with 400 field teams ready to respond when blackouts are likely to occur.
Bill Hogan, the province’s public safety minister, says his department stands ready to help other Maritime provinces, should assistance be needed.
“We are prepared to deploy to Nova Scotia to help those people,” Hogan said. “We are all Seafarers, we act like Seafarers, and we want to help each other where we can.”
Hogan reminds residents of central and northern New Brunswick not to underestimate the storm, especially as Fiona’s path could change in the next 24 to 48 hours.
STORM OF STOCKS
Across the region, grocery stores, hardware stores, and gas stations are experiencing shortages of essential items.
Denika Coakley was in high school when Hurricane Juan hit Nova Scotia in 2003. Now, she is preparing to weather this storm with her own family.
“You have to have your storm tokens. But you can have easily accessible foods and things that don’t really need to be baked on a stove, so sandwiches, bread that kind of thing,” Coakley said, loading groceries into his truck.
As the Coakleys prepare to confront Fiona, others head out while they can.
Halifax Stanfield International Airport spokeswoman Tiffany Chase reminds passengers to check with their airline before heading to the airport, hoping to change their flight.
“At this point, we understand that airlines are adding some additional flights,” Chase said. “It is unlikely that they are thinking of leaving the team here at the airport. For example, they would want to move as much of that away from this region as possible until the storm passes.”
With files from Jesse Thomas, Ryan MacDonald, Kyle Moore, Jonathan MacInnis, Laura Brown and CTV’s Jack Morse.