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A look back at Hurricane Juan 14 years after it tore through Atlantic Canada

Hurricane Juan 14 years later
Hurricane Juan made landfall in Halifax, N.S. on Sept. 29, 2003 as a category two hurricane. Here are some of the sights and sounds of that night.

It has been 14 years since Hurricane Juan made landfall in Halifax, N.S. and while much of the damage has been repaired, if you look close enough the fallout can still be seen — and felt — throughout the region.

Scientists have called it 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.

The Category 2 hurricane that made landfall shortly after 12:00 a.m on Sept. 29, 2003, brought with it sustained winds of 157 km/h, sheeting rain, storm surges and huge waves.

Trees were uprooted, cars pinned beneath the weight of heavy, mature trees that seemed immovable. Shingles blew across empty city streets.

READ MORE: Canada’s most destructive hurricanes

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

The Halifax Regional Municipality was one of that hardest hit regions in the storm’s path.

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Streets were blocked off, sometimes for days, as trees were uprooted or power lines knocked over.

Boardwalks were torn up by surf and heavy winds while roofs on houses were damaged.

The path of Hurricane Juan
The path of Hurricane Juan. Canadian Hurricane Centre

READ MORE: Katrina, Sandy, and now Harvey: Here’s how hurricanes get their names

A unique storm

Although the Atlantic Provinces are no stranger to the effects of hurricanes and subtropical storms, it’s unusual for a hurricane of this strength to travel to the northern reaches of the Atlantic Ocean.

The reason has to do with the cool waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Hurricanes are fed from the surface temperature of the ocean. Usually, the cooler Atlantic waters force a hurricane to weaken the further north it travels.

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But in 2003, the waters of the Atlantic were unusually warm, about 3 C warmer than average.

This made Juan incredibly powerful for a storm in the North Atlantic. Not only did the warmer waters contribute to Juan, the hurricane didn’t slow down as it progressed north. Juan actually sped up and accelerated — causing the storm to hit Halifax with an unusually strong combination of intense wind, rain and surf.

WATCH: U.S. airmen survey post-hurricane damage over northern Puerto Rico

U.S. airmen survey post-hurricane damage over northern Puerto Rico
U.S. airmen survey post-hurricane damage over northern Puerto Rico

Aftermath

According to a report by Chris Fogarty of the Canadian Hurricane Centre, between 800,000 and 900,000 people lost their power during the storm.

“The Nova Scotia Power Corporation reported that the last of their affected customers had power restored by the morning of Sunday, Oct. 12 — just short of two weeks after the storm,’ Fogarty wrote.

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Estimates pegged the damage at $300 million.

And along with the destruction to the area’s infrastructure, Hurricane Juan brought with it a terrible cost to human life.

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

A sailboat tied to a wharf in Halifax sunk after another boat crashed into it during Hurricane Juan.
A sailboat tied to a wharf in Halifax sunk after another boat crashed into it during Hurricane Juan. Doug Mercer/Environment Canada

The destruction was severe, and the loss of life so harsh that Environment Canada campaigned for, and was eventually successful in, the retirement of the name Juan from the list of names used for tropical storms and hurricanes.

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David Anderson, who was the minister of environment at the time, said that the request was made on behalf of the people of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

“Withdrawing the name ‘Juan’ from the WMO list of hurricane names shows a measure of respect for the tragic loss of life,” said Anderson.

It was the first time that Canada had requested the retirement of a storm name.