Hurricane Juan ten years later

TORONTO – It’s been 10 years since Hurricane Juan devastated Nova Scotia and parts of Prince Edward Island.

For people who lived through it, it will never be forgotten.

At 12:10 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 29, 2003, Juan made landfall between Shad Bay and Prospect.

Winds of 158 km/h battered the province and high surf pounded the shores. Trees were uprooted, cars pinned beneath the weight of heavy, mature trees that seemed immovable. Shingles blew across empty city streets.

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In Point Pleasant Park, 90 percent of the mature tree growth was destroyed.

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The park is still “not the park it was before,” says John Simmons, a longtime urban forester with the Halifax Regional Municipality.

“Nothing will cure that but 100 years,” he says. “The trees that blew down in that park, when we counted the rings, the majority of them were 70 to 100 years old.”

But even before Juan made landfall, people in both Nova Scotia and PEI began to feel its effects. The night before, hundreds of thousands of people in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island lost power.

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

Though the Atlantic Provinces are no stranger to the effects of hurricanes and subtropical storms, it’s unusual for a hurricane of this strength to make it this far. The reason has to do with the cool waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

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

But in 2003, the waters of the Atlantic were usually warm, about 3 C warmer than average. This slowed the rate of weakening.

Not only did the warmer waters contribute to Juan, the hurricane didn’t slow down. It’s rapid acceleration almost counteracted the weakening.

After it was all done, eight lives were lost and over $100 million in damage was reported.

The Saffir-Simpson Scale which measure hurricane strength
Category 1: 64-82 knots (119-153 km/h)
Category 2: 83-95 knots (154-177 km/h)
Category 3: 96-113 knots (178-209 km/h)
Category 4: 114-135 knots (210-249 km/h)
Category 5: Winds more than 135 knots (249 km/h)

It is believed that a hurricane of this strength only occurs in the Atlantic Provinces every 50 years or so.

— with files from The Canadian Press

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