(CNN) — Canadians brace themselves for what could be the strongest storm to hit their nation’s coast.
Hurricane Fiona has ravaged the Caribbean, is expected to skim over Bermuda as a dangerous Category 3 storm and shows no signs of slowing down before go to canada Saturday morning.
“This could be the Canadian version of Hurricane Sandy,” said Chris Fogarty, a meteorologist at the Canadian Hurricane Center, noting Fiona’s size and intensity and the combination of hurricane and winter storm characteristics. Hurricane Sandy hit 24 states and the entire East Coast, causing an estimated $78.7 billion in damage.
Fiona was about 1,200 miles southwest of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Thursday morning, but that area is already bracing for a rare and historic impact.
“Take it seriously because we see numbers on our weather maps that are rarely seen here,” Fogarty said.
The lowest pressure ever recorded in Canada was 940 millibars in January 1977 in Newfoundland, said Brian Tang, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Albany. “Current forecast models indicate that Fiona will make landfall in eastern Nova Scotia at pressures of between 925 and 935 millibars, which would easily set a new record,” he said.
A Category 4 hurricane usually has a pressure of 920 to 944 millibars.
Many meteorologists, including Fogarty, compare this storm to Hurricane Juan in 2003, which struck the Canadian coast as a Category 2 storm.
“That storm was much smaller. This one is huge,” Fogarty said.
The storm’s hurricane-force winds extend for 112 kilometers in every direction from the center, and tropical storm winds extend for more than 300 kilometers. That means a track 225 kilometers wide can experience hurricane-force winds and an area more than 600 kilometers wide can experience tropical storm winds.
And Fiona could get even bigger by the time the storm hits Canada, according to Tang.
The consequences of Fiona
Fiona is expected to reach Atlantic Canada Friday night, but the region will start with deteriorating conditions early on Friday.
Hurricane Fiona has the potential to become a weather milestone in Eastern Canada this weekend, and we encourage the public to continue monitoring the forecast regularly.
— ECCC Canadian Hurricane Center (@ECCC_CHC) September 22, 2022
“Fiona is purely a hurricane right now. If it starts interacting with a cold weather system and a jet stream, it will turn into a super storm with characteristics of both a hurricane and a strong autumn cyclone with gale-force winds, very intense and large swells and waves ,” Tang explained.
The National Hurricane Center predicts the storm will “continue to produce gale-force winds as it crosses Nova Scotia and enters the Gulf of St. Lawrence.” In fact, the storm can still produce winds of more than 100 mph when it makes landfall.
Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and western Newfoundland can receive up to 6 inches of rain, with up to 4 inches (10 inches) in some areas. This can cause significant flash flooding.
“We want people to take this very seriously and be prepared for a long period of power outages and structural damage to buildings,” explains Fogarty.
Large swells and waves are forecast in the region that could endanger lives.
Some waves in the eastern parts of the Gulf of St. Lawrence can be more than three feet high, and in the western Gulf there will be northerly waves up to 66 inches in places, likely to cause significant erosion on north-facing beaches. from Prince Edward Island, the Canadian Hurricane Center said.
The hurricane center also warns of flooding along the coast, especially during high tide.
Nova Scotia and Cape Breton hadn’t been hit by such an intense storm in about 50 years. Both were winter storms, in 1974 and 1976, Fogarty said. Many people don’t even remember those two storms, so forecasters are trying to send a clear message to residents to prepare.
CNN Meteorologist Judson Jones contributed to this report.