Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday promised the federal government will be on hand to assist Atlantic Canada as it braces for the arrival of Hurricane Fiona, which is expected to make landfall Saturday morning.
The Canadian Hurricane Centre has issued a hurricane watch over extensive coastal expanses of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland, with authorities warning of heavy rain, flooding and “life-threatening” storm surges.
“It’s going to a bad one,” Trudeau said during a joint press conference with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol in Ottawa.
“We of course hope there won’t be much (federal assistance) needed, but we feel there probably will be. And we will be there for that. In the meantime we encourage everyone to stay safe and to listen to the instructions of local authorities, and hang in there for the next 24 hours.”
Trudeau was set to travel to Japan Friday evening to attend former prime minister Shinzo Abe’s funeral, which is set for Tuesday.
However, the Prime Minister’s Office later said the flight had been delayed until Sunday “due to the ongoing situation with Hurricane Fiona.”
“During this time, he will be receiving briefings on the emergency response and support from the federal government, as well as reaching out to premiers,” spokesperson Cecily Roy said in an email, confirming Trudeau was staying in Canada.
The PMO said Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair and Atlantic MPs have been in contact with provincial counterparts and was offering “whatever support may be needed.”
Trudeau told reporters the provinces have “tremendous” resources of their own to prepare for the incoming storm and support residents in affected areas.
Fiona, currently a category 4 hurricane, had maximum sustained winds of 205 km/h as of Friday afternoon as it approached Nova Scotia from the south. Those winds are still expected to reach as high as 175 km/h by the time it reaches the southern shore of the province, according to the latest update from the Canadian Hurricane Centre.
“This is is definitely going to be one of, if not the most powerful, tropical cyclones to affect our part of the country,” Ian Hubbard, meteorologist for the Canadian Hurricane Centre in Dartmouth, N.S., said during an update earlier Friday. “It’s going to be definitely as severe and as bad as any I’ve seen.”
Bob Robichaud, Warning Preparedness Meteorologist for the Canadian Hurricane Centre, said the centre of the storm was expected to arrive in Nova Scotia on Saturday morning, but its winds and rains would arrive late Friday.
Alerts warning of severe flooding due to storm surges along the northern shoreline of Prince Edward Island were received by residents Friday afternoon, who were told to be prepared to move to other areas if they live in the region.
Officials said the heaviest rainfall is expected in eastern Nova Scotia, southwestern Newfoundland and the Gulf of St. Lawrence region. Rainfall warnings have also been issued for southeastern New Brunswick.
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also urged Atlantic Canada residents to “stay safe” and take necessary precautions during the storm.
Fiona so far has been blamed for at least five deaths: two in Puerto Rico, two in the Dominican Republic and one in the French island of Guadeloupe.
The storm pounded Bermuda with heavy rains and winds early Friday as it swept by the island on a route heading for Atlantic Canada. Authorities in Bermuda opened shelters and closed schools and offices ahead of Fiona. Michael Weeks, the national security minister, said there had been no reports of major damage.
Before reaching Bermuda, Fiona caused severe flooding and devastation in Puerto Rico, leading U.S. President Joe Biden to say Thursday that the full force of the federal government is ready to help the U.S. territory recover.
As of Friday, hundreds of people in Puerto Rico remained isolated by blocked roads five days after the hurricane ripped into the island.
—With files from Global’s Mercedes Stephenson, Alex Cooke and the Associated Press