TORONTO — Fiona washed homes into the sea, ripped roofs off others and knocked out power across the vast majority of Canada’s two provinces as she made landfall before dawn on Saturday in a big, powerful cyclone. post tropical.
Fiona transformed from a hurricane into a post-tropical storm on Friday night, but still had hurricane-force winds and brought torrential rains and huge waves. There have been no confirmed deaths or injuries.
Ocean waves hit the town of Channel-Port Aux Basques on the south coast of Newfoundland, where entire structures were swept into the sea. Mayor Brian Button said on social media on Saturday that people were blown to higher ground as winds toppled power lines.
“I see houses in the ocean. I see rubble floating everywhere. It is complete and total destruction. There’s an apartment that’s gone,” said Rene J. Roy, a Channel-Port Aux Basques resident and editor of Wreckhouse Press, in a phone interview.
Roy estimated that between 8 and 12 houses and buildings were washed out to sea. “It’s quite terrifying,” he said.
Jolene Garland, spokesperson for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Newfoundland and Labrador, said a woman was safe and in “good health” after she was “thrown into the water as her home s ‘collapsed’ in the Channel-Port Aux Basques area. Garland said an individual who may have been blown away was still missing and high winds prevented an aerial search.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said the town of 4,000 was in a state of emergency as authorities dealt with multiple electrical fires and residential flooding.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has canceled his trip to Japan for the funeral of slain former prime minister Shinzo Abe. Trudeau said the federal government would deploy the Canadian Armed Forces to help.
“We are seeing devastating images coming out of Port aux Basques. PEI (Prince Edward Island) suffered storm damage the likes of which they had never seen. Cape Breton is also hard hit,” Trudeau said.
“Canadians are thinking of all those affected by Hurricane Fiona, which is having devastating effects in the Atlantic provinces and eastern Quebec, particularly in the Magdalen Islands. There are people who see their homes destroyed, people who are very worried, we will be there for you.
Halifax Mayor Mike Savage said the roof of a building collapsed and they moved 100 people to an evacuation centre. He said no one was seriously injured or killed. Provincial officials said other apartment buildings were also significantly damaged. Halifax has about 160 displaced people from two apartments, officials said.
More than 415,000 Nova Scotia Power customers – about 80% of the province’s nearly one million – were affected by outages as of Saturday morning. More than 82,000 customers in the province of Prince Edward Island, or about 95%, were also without power, while NB Power in New Brunswick reported 44,329 were without power.
The Canadian Hurricane Center tweeted early Saturday that Fiona had the lowest pressure on record for a storm making landfall in Canada. Forecasters had warned it could be one of the most powerful storms to hit the country.
“We get more severe storms more frequently,” Trudeau said Saturday.
He said more resilient infrastructure was needed to be able to withstand extreme weather events, saying a storm in 100 years could start hitting every few years due to climate change.
“Things are only getting worse,” Trudeau said.
A local state of emergency has also been declared by the Mayor and Council of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.
“There are houses that have been significantly damaged due to downed trees, large old trees falling and causing significant damage. We also see houses whose roofs have been completely torn off, windows broken. There is a tremendous amount of debris on the roads,” Amanda McDougall, mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, told The Associated Press.
“There is a lot of damage to property and structures, but no injuries at this stage. Again, we’re still in the middle of that,” she said. “It’s always terrifying. I’m just sitting here in my living room and I feel like the patio doors are going to break in with these big gusts.
Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston said roads were washed out, including his own, and an “unbelievable” number of trees fell.
“It’s pretty devastating. The sad reality is that people who need information are unable to hear it. Their phones don’t work, they don’t have electricity or internet access,” Houston said.
Peter Gregg, president and CEO of Nova Scotia Power, said unprecedented peak winds caused severe damage. “In many areas, the weather conditions are still too dangerous for our teams to get into our bucket trucks,” Gregg said. He said around 380,000 customers remained without power as of Saturday afternoon.
Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King said there were no reports of significant injuries or fatalities. But he said few communities were spared, with the devastation appearing to be beyond anything they had seen before in the province. He said more than 95% of islanders remain without power.
Federal Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair said there was very extensive damage to Sydney Airport in Nova Scotia. He said other airports were also affected, but damage to the facility in Halifax, Nova Scotia’s largest airport, was minor.
Fiona had weakened to tropical storm strength late Saturday afternoon as it moved through the Gulf of St. Lawrence. In its final report on Fiona, the US Hurricane Center said it had maximum sustained winds of 70 mph (110 kph). It was centered about 80 miles (130 kilometers) northwest of Port aux Basques and was moving northeast at 8 mph (13 km/h).
Tropical storm-force winds extended out to 550 miles (890 kilometers).
Hurricanes in Canada are quite rare, in part because once the storms reach colder waters, they lose their main source of energy. But post-tropical cyclones can still have hurricane-force winds, although they have a cold core and no visible eyes. They also often lose their symmetrical shape and look more like a comma.
In Sydney, N.S., the largest city in Cape Breton, about 20 people have taken refuge at the Center 200 sports and entertainment center, said Christina Lamey, spokeswoman for the region. Lamey said there were hundreds of displaced people in the province.
Arlene and Robert Grafilo fled to Center 200 with their children, aged 3 and 10, after a huge tree fell on their duplex apartment.
“We were trapped and couldn’t open the doors and windows, so we decided to call 911,” Arlene Grafilo said. She said firefighters eventually rescued them.
Peter MacKay, a former foreign affairs minister and defense minister who lives in Nova Scotia, said he and his family had had a long night and the winds were still raging into the afternoon.
“We had put everything we could out of harm’s way, but the house was hammered pretty hard. Lots of lost shingles, heavy water damage in ceilings, walls, our deck is destroyed. A garage I was building blew up,” MacKay said in an email to The Associated Press.
“I’ve never seen anything like it. I had a crazy time,” he added.
He called the images from Newfoundland heartbreaking.
So far, Fiona has been charged with at least five deaths – two in Puerto Rico, two in the Dominican Republic and one on the French island of Guadeloupe.
In the Caribbean, Tropical Storm Ian is expected to strengthen rapidly in the coming days. The US National Hurricane Center said it could move over western Cuba and towards the west coast of Florida or the Florida Panhandle by the middle of next week.
Ian was centered about 230 miles (370 kilometers) south of Kingston, Jamaica early Saturday evening. It had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph (75 km/h) and was moving west at 14 mph (22 km/h). A hurricane watch has been issued for the Cayman Islands.