Canada Mobilizes Military to Help Towns Slammed by Fiona

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The storm, which was downgraded from a Category 3 hurricane, overwhelmed coastal towns in eastern Canada, where it flooded roadways, knocked out power and destroyed buildings.CreditCredit...Chris Donovan for The New York Times

Canadian officials on Sunday mobilized the military to help eastern Canada after what forecasters called “a historic storm” slammed coastal towns, washing away entire homes and blocking roads in Nova Scotia.

Waves about 40 feet or higher hit the eastern shore of Nova Scotia and southwestern Newfoundland, forecasters said.

The storm covered playgrounds in water, ripped coastal houses from their foundations and knocked over large trees. A 73-year-old woman was killed after her residence was swept away by the storm, the police said, while another person who was reported to have been swept into the ocean was rescued.

The Canadian military was being mobilized to help Nova Scotia and would remain ready to help other provinces, said Anita Anand, the country’s minister of national defense.

ImageFiona flooded the Burnt Islands on the southwestern coast of Newfoundland, Canada.
Credit...Michael King/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Canadian forecasters said on Saturday that an unofficial reading indicated that Fiona was “the lowest-pressured land-falling storm on record in Canada” with a recorded pressure of 931 millibars.

Fiona, which had been downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone from a Category 3 hurricane on Friday, was among the strongest storms known to make landfall and hit Canada, said Dan Kottlowski, a senior meteorologist and lead hurricane forecaster at AccuWeather.

“By the time it made landfall, Fiona was not technically a hurricane,” Mr. Kottlowski said. “But it still carried the same wind and damage and hit with the ferocity of a strong Category 2 hurricane.”

More than 230,000 customers remained without power in Nova Scotia as of Sunday afternoon, according to Nova Scotia Power.

At least 20 homes were destroyed and 200 were damaged. More than 200 residents were evacuated, said Cpl. Jolene Garland, a spokeswoman for the Newfoundland Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Many public schools in the area canceled classes for Monday, officials said. Officials encouraged residents to remain in their homes, if safe, on Sunday afternoon as repairs continued.

Port aux Basques, a community of about 3,600 people on the southwestern tip of Newfoundland, was inundated by more than three feet of storm surge, with large pounding waves, according to a government update on Sunday. The tide gauge recorded a maximum total water level at just under nine feet, or 2.73 meters — breaking a previous record of 2.71 meters set in 2017.

René Roy, editor in chief of Wreckhouse Weekly, a local newspaper, said that he lived in the east end of town, which was evacuated as the storm bore down on Saturday, and was staying with a cousin on the west end, about 120 paces from the harbor.

“This thing is an absolute howitzer,” Mr. Roy said. “This is as bad as anyone here has ever seen. It’s not just the wind we’re worrying on, that’s going to knock out power, that’s going to tear off shingles and so on. We’re used to that. But what we’re not used to is 30-, 40-, 50-foot waves coming up onto the roads, moving houses 60 feet or just completely vaporizing them.”

In Nova Scotia, the greatest effects were in Cape Breton on the east end of the province, where downed power lines and debris littered the streets, Tim Houston, the premier of Nova Scotia, said at a news conference on Saturday.

Fiona was forecast to cross Labrador and the Labrador Sea on Sunday evening into Monday and weaken, the Canadian Hurricane Center said in an advisory.

Category 5 4 3 2 1 Tropical storm
Area of tropical-storm-force winds Forecast path

Fiona, which formed as a tropical storm on Sept. 15, battered parts of the Caribbean in the past week, including Puerto Rico, which experienced widespread power outages. As of Sunday afternoon, nearly 770,000 people in Puerto Rico were still without electricity, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks interruptions.

At least four deaths have been attributed to Fiona: two in the Dominican Republic and one each in Puerto Rico and Guadeloupe, where the storm hit last Saturday.

Forecasters were also monitoring other weather systems in the Atlantic on Saturday, including Tropical Storm Ian, which could threaten Florida as a major hurricane this week.

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As the storm approached Bermuda, officials urged residents to prepare for strong winds, rain and surf.CreditCredit...Liana Nanang for The New York Times

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 early this month 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.

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Credit...Lara Balais/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Last month, 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.

Reporting was contributed by Maria Abi-Habib, Hayden Boyce, Johnny Diaz, Christine Hauser, Amanda Holpuch, Mike Ives, Anatoly Kurmanaev, Patricia Mazzei, Eduardo Medina, Christopher Mele, Farah Mohamed, Liana Nanang, McKenna Oxenden, Vimal Patel, Hogla Enecia Pérez, Víctor Manuel Ramos, April Rubin, Edgar Sandoval, Chris Stanford, Derrick Bryson Taylor and Daniel Victor.