Hurricane warnings issued for PEI as Fiona expected to cause major damage

Environment Canada made it official early Friday: Hurricane Fiona will almost certainly slam into Prince Edward Island as a storm with Category 1 winds and torrential rain.

The weather agency posted hurricane warnings for all three of the province’s counties, as well as rainfall, wind and storm surge warnings.

That will mean:

  • Hurricane-force winds of 100 km/h gusting to 140 km/h at exposed locations, pushing even higher at the coast with gusts of 160 km/h.
  • A storm surge of 1.8 to 2.4 meters and dangerous waves ranging from 11 to 15 meters in height on Saturday morning to coincide with the arrival of high tide.
  • “Intense and torrential” rainfall amounting to 50 to 100 mm in all, with some locations possibly receiving 150 mm.

“Rainfall amounts will be staggering,” CBC meteorologist Tina Simpkin said on Friday morning. “Storm surge is also going to be a huge issue and you can bet that Fiona is going to change the look of the coastline.

An Environment Canada statement issued at 8:40 am AT gave more erosion context: “The western Gulf will see waves from the north up to 8 meters in places, which will probably cause significant erosion for north facing beaches of Prince Edward Island. Iles- de-la-Madeleine will also see some coastal erosion from waves.”

Kings County in the east will likely get the most rain, and Queens and Kings counties will experience the worst winds, Environment Canada said.

“Rainfall rates in excess of 25 mm per hour are possible beginning tonight and will continue into Saturday,” the agency said.

A map issued by the Canadian Hurricane Center at 3 am AT on Friday morning. (Canadian Hurricane Centre)

Winds in eastern Cape Breton and southwest Newfoundland east of the eye will likely get gusts to near Category 2 hurricane level, which is 160 km/h.

“Over PEI and parts of northern Nova Scotia, the winds will be much colder and from the northwest and could gust up to 140 or 150 km/h.”

Environment Canada was blunt about the possible impact.

“These winds could cause significant tree fall and result in extended utility outages. Damage to building cladding and roofing material is likely, including structural damage in certain cases. Winds of this strength could cause windows to break and tear off large overhead highway signs.”

Lineups were long outside Island Waste Watch in Charlottetown on Thursday as people rushed to drop off unwanted items from around their properties in advance of weekend winds that could turn them into projectiles. (CBC)

The warning also said Fiona “will result in damage to docks and breakwaters. Significant shoreline erosion and large waves are expected where winds blow onshore.”

People who must venture outdoors during the storm are being warned to watch out for wind-blown debris and downed power lines, among other risks.

“Stay away from the shore — the combination of surge and large waves could result in dangerous rip currents and the risk of being pulled out to sea,” Environment Canada said.

You will see rain and wind. That’s not quite Fiona yet.— Tanya Mullally

Friday dawned damp and breezy, which had Tanya Mullally from the province’s Emergency Measures Organization warning Islanders not to drop their guard, thinking that indicates Fiona’s arrival will be mild.

“You will see rain and wind. That’s not quite Fiona yet,” she said. “We are going to be experiencing a low system that’s kind of moving across Canada into Atlantic Canada and that’s actually what’s kind of sucking Fiona in over the Maritimes and onto PEI

“Fiona really won’t be felt, if I could say that, ’til later on Friday evening and in the overnight hours.”

A tree that fell on a truck
A tree blown down by Hurricane Fiona hangs on electrical wires over a street in Salinas, Puerto Rico, on Tuesday. (Alejandro Granadillo/The Associated Press)

As of 8:30 am AT, Fiona was passing northwest of Bermuda with maximum sustained winds of 205 km/h, after causing severe flooding in the Caribbean islands it touched and killed at least eight people in Puerto Rico.

Travel impacts

Because of Fiona, the Confederation Bridge is warning of travel restrictions, starting tonight around 9 pm and lasting until early Sunday morning.

Northumberland Ferries has canceled the 3:30, 5 and 7 pm AT sailings from Wood Islands and the 1:30, 5:15 and 6:30 pm AT sailings from Caribou, NS All crossings on Saturday are canceled and the company expects disruption on Sunday as well.

So far, Air Canada has canceled one of its Friday flights into Charlottetown, AC1570 from Montreal, usually expected at 11:30 pm

For more information on what disruptions are being announced due to the storm, click here: Hurricane Fiona: What’s open and closed on PEI

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