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As N.S. braces for Fiona, here’s how it could compare to Juan and Dorian

Click to play video: 'Hurricane Fiona will be ‘extremely strong and dangerous storm’ for Atlantic Canada, CHC warns' Hurricane Fiona will be ‘extremely strong and dangerous storm’ for Atlantic Canada, CHC warns
At a Canadian Hurricane Centre press briefing on Thursday, warning preparedness meteorologist Bob Robichaud provided an update on Hurricane Fiona in anticipation of its arrival in Atlantic Canada starting late Friday until Saturday. Robichaud stressed the importance for local residents to stay updated with the weather forecast, calling it an "extremely strong and dangerous storm," and to prepare for 72 hours of self-sufficiency after the storm, which may see extended period of power outages – Sep 22, 2022

As Hurricane Fiona hurtles toward Nova Scotia, officials warn the incoming storm could be one for the history books.

Hurricane and tropical storm warnings are in effect as Fiona is expected to make landfall over eastern mainland Nova Scotia or western Cape Breton early Saturday morning, after transitioning to a fierce post-tropical storm Friday night.

Even if it will no longer be classified as a hurricane, Fiona is still expected to bring hurricane-force winds and more than 200 millimetres of rain in some areas.

Read more: Hurricane Fiona to accelerate, bring ‘hurricane force winds’ to Atlantic Canada

In a news conference Thursday, John Lohr, the minister responsible for the Office of Emergency Management, said Fiona is expected to be a “significant and historical” weather event.

While Nova Scotians have plenty of experience preparing for hurricanes – including Teddy in 2020, which ended up not having much of an impact – Lohr urged everyone to take Fiona seriously.

“Fiona is different. All questions have been removed as to whether this storm will happen. We are now certain,” he said.

Read more: Cape Breton in ‘direct impact zone’ for Hurricane Fiona, warns mayor

Bob Robichaud, a warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment Canada, also warned of Fiona’s impacts on Thursday.

“Once this is all said and done, people are definitely going to remember Fiona for a very long time,” he said.

Larger than Juan, stronger than Dorian

When Nova Scotians think of hurricanes, it’s likely that two in particular come to mind: Juan in 2003, and Dorian in 2019.

Juan made landfall in Halifax as a Category 2 hurricane shortly after midnight on Sept. 29, 2003, bringing with it sustained winds of 157 km/h, sheeting rain, storm surges and huge waves.

The storm also claimed the lives of eight people: three in a house fire that was likely caused by candles used during a power outage, a motorist in Enfield and a Halifax paramedic who died from falling trees, two fishermen whose boat capsized in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and a relief worker who died weeks after the storm.

Thousands of trees in Point Pleasant Park in Halifax blown over after Hurricane Juan.
Thousands of trees in Point Pleasant Park in Halifax blown over after Hurricane Juan. Jim Abraham and Chris Fogarty/Environment Canada

Scientists have called Juan a once-in-a-50-year storm and the most “damaging storm in modern history of Halifax,” with approximately 100 million trees being uprooted, broken or tossed around.

Dorian, meanwhile, made landfall in Halifax a little after 7 p.m., on Sept. 7, 2019, as a post-tropical storm, after wreaking havoc on the Caribbean, the Bahamas and the eastern United States.

While nobody in Halifax was killed, wind gusts reaching nearly 150 km/h brought down trees and power lines across the region, leaving hundreds of thousands in the dark.

By far the most iconic image of the storm in Halifax was the collapsed crane that closed a stretch of downtown Halifax for months afterwards.

Click to play video: 'Hurricane Dorian: Video captures moment crane collapses in downtown Halifax during storm' Hurricane Dorian: Video captures moment crane collapses in downtown Halifax during storm
Hurricane Dorian: Video captures moment crane collapses in downtown Halifax during storm – Sep 7, 2019

On Thursday, Robichaud said Fiona might possess characteristics from both Juan and Dorian.

While Juan had stronger winds than Dorian, the 2003 hurricane was concentrated to a smaller area.

In Fiona’s case, the storm will be widespread, covering a “fairly large area,” similar to Dorian, but it will likely have fiercer winds.

“This storm is going to be bigger in size, compared to what Juan was, but maybe a little stronger than what we saw even with Dorian,” Robichaud said.

That being said, Robichaud noted it’s a “tricky thing” to compare storms.

“Really, every storm is different,” he said. “It depends on things like the speed of the storm, the exact track of the storm, the intensity as it’s going by.”

‘It’s always a guessing game’

Erica Fleck, Halifax Regional Municipality’s assistant chief of emergency management, said any time a major event happens, the municipality conducts a review to determine what went wrong and right.

“We take both the good and the bad, and then we improve from there,” she said.

Fleck said the mayor and council underwent training earlier this month to go over legislative responsibilities and bylaws, which she said was “one of the biggest gaps” during Hurricane Juan.

“Dorian, we got a lot better and we did a lot of things right, but we always miss things, because it’s always a guessing game,” she said.

“We just continue to improve and evolve as we go through.”

Read more: Fiona: A list of cancellations as Nova Scotia prepares for powerful storm

Meanwhile, Halifax Mayor Mike Savage said construction sites are being told to secure cranes and building materials, to avoid another crumpled crane situation like we saw with Dorian in 2019.

The Department of Labour will be the governing body for that, Savage said.

Minister Lohr added: “I’m certain that crane owners are well aware of the consequences and risks, and how to secure their cranes, and have a huge interest in doing so.

“So we would expect them to be taking all precautions.”

— with files from Global News

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