The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Fiona slams Atlantic Canada, leaving destruction, outages in its wake

Former Hurricane Fiona slammed into Nova Scotia’s coastline early Sept. 24, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without power. (Video: Storyful)
5 min

MONTREAL — One of the strongest storms ever to hit Canada slammed into Nova Scotia’s coastline on Saturday, leaving much of Nova Scotia and nearly all of Prince Edward Island without power.

Former hurricane Fiona made landfall early Saturday over Guysborough County on the northeast corner of mainland Nova Scotia, Canada’s weather service said. Maximum sustained winds reached almost 81 mph, while peak gusts of more than 100 mph were detected, it said.

Fiona is the lowest-pressure land-falling storm on record in Canada, according to the Canadian Hurricane Center, which also reported hurricane-force gusts battering the area.

In Newfoundland, many residents have shared videos on social media of entire homes drifting in the ocean.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Terry Osmond, 62, a resident of Port aux Basques, Newfoundland, said in a Facebook message to The Washington Post. There is “so much devastation.”

Initially, nearly all of Prince Edward Island’s 86,000 customers were without power, as were most of Nova Scotia’s 500,000 customers, according to utility tracker

Power gradually began to be restored in the afternoon as winds subsided. By about 6 p.m., about 334,000 customers in Nova Scotia were without power — down from the more than 415,000 reported earlier in the day.

“While we have seen some improvement in the weather, I want to reiterate that this is still an active storm in many parts,” Peter Gregg, Nova Scotia Power’s president and chief executive, said during a news conference Saturday. “There will be outages for multiple days.”

“With a storm of this magnitude, it will take time,” Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston said during the same briefing. “We have been in contact with our federal partners and have requested military and disaster assistance.

“This is a storm that will certainly not be forgotten anytime soon,” he added.

On Prince Edward Island, more than 90 percent of the population was still without electricity late Saturday afternoon.

“The devastation looks to be beyond anything we have witnessed,” said P.E.I. Premier Dennis King at a separate news conference. “We have been reassured that the federal government is prepared to support us in our recovery and is prepared to do so with urgency.”

In a tweet, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote, “Our government stands ready to support the provinces with additional resources.”

Amanda McDougall, mayor of Cape Breton Regional Municipality, a hard-hit area in Nova Scotia, told CTV Atlantic that “power lines and power poles are everywhere.”

“Houses have lost their roofs. There are a great many trees that are down that are causing structural damage,” she said Saturday morning.

She added that it was too early to assess overall damage, in part because it is so hard to travel.

Emergency responders in various parts of Nova Scotia have reported roof collapses but no major injuries.

“A neighbor has a tree down on their house, and basements are flooding,” said Bryson Syliboy, 41, of Port Hawkesbury. “Usually during a storm someone gets hurt, but I feel like everybody heeded the warnings and stayed in. Even last night, there was a minimum of trucks on the roads.”

In Newfoundland, apartment buildings were destroyed and whole buildings washed out to sea in Port aux Basques, at the southwestern tip of the province.

The area is under an emergency evacuation order as the region continues to face flooding, storm surges and violent winds. According to local officials, first responders are combating “multiple electrical fires, residential flooding and washouts.”

Police confirmed Saturday that two women were swept out into the ocean in the morning. One was rescued by residents and sustained no serious injuries.

The other woman has yet to be found, and “we have formally opened an investigation into a missing person,” Jolene Garland, spokeswoman for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, said in a phone interview with The Post.

The woman was inside a home when it was “struck by a devastating wave,” Garland said. “The presumption is that she went out with the water.”

Video shot in the town of Burgeo, Newfoundland, showed a coastline covered with debris from destroyed buildings.

The storm hit with full intensity in other parts of the region, including on the tiny Magdalen Islands, home to about 14,000 people and famously vulnerable to coastal erosion.

Over the past week, Fiona has cut a wide path of destruction, especially in the Caribbean.

Although Fiona was a Category 1 hurricane when it hit Puerto Rico, it battered the island with heavy rains that washed away roads, caused mudslides and cut off running water. Afterward, Fiona slammed the Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos and other parts of the Caribbean. By Wednesday, it had intensified to a Category 4 storm before it passed near Bermuda. It left most of the British overseas territory temporarily without power on Friday.

Flooding from Fiona wreaks havoc on Puerto Rico

When the storm hit Atlantic Canada, it produced peak wind gusts of more than 77 mph in Halifax and as much as 110 mph in Wreckhouse, Newfoundland, according to The Weather Network, a weather site in Canada.

Here's what Fiona's surf looked like atop a 50-foot wave

Fiona is now a post-tropical cyclone but is still packing hurricane-strength winds. The National Hurricane Center warned Saturday afternoon that the remnants would continue to affect Atlantic Canada through early Sunday, with heavy rains, life-threatening rip currents and storm surges.

As Fiona eyes Nova Scotia, a look at Canada’s strongest storms of the past

Fiona is the latest marker of an Atlantic hurricane season that started slow but has suddenly turned active. It is one of five systems meteorologists are watching in the Atlantic basin, including one that organized into Tropical Storm Ian on Friday night and could soon become a threat to Florida as a hurricane.


A previous version of this article misspelled the surname of a resident of Port Hawkesbury. He is Bryson Syliboy, not Sylliboy. This article has been corrected.

Dance and Reiley reported from Washington, and Page from Toronto. Jason Samenow in Washington and Helier Cheung in London contributed to this report.