By Aya Elamroussi, Theresa Waldrop and Christina Maxouris, CNN
Deadly Hurricane Fiona has weakened slightly to a Category 3 storm but is still packing forceful winds of 125 mph as it barrels toward Canada’s Atlantic coast.
It’s expected to bring hurricane conditions to the region Friday night, the National Hurricane Center said.
It’s on track to be an “extreme weather event” in eastern Canada, threatening powerful winds, dangerous storm surge and about two months’ worth of rainfall, forecasters with the Canadian Hurricane Centre warned Friday afternoon. And some parts, like the Canadian Maritimes, will likely begin feeling effects Friday evening, the centre said.
“This could be a landmark event for Canada in terms of intensity of a tropical cyclone,” and it could even become Canada’s version of Superstorm Sandy, said Chris Fogarty, Canadian Hurricane Centre manager. Hurricane Sandy affected 24 states and all of the eastern seaboard, causing an estimated $78.7 billion in damage.
Officials in Canada’s Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island urged those in the storm’s path to be on high alert and prepare for the impact of the hurricane, which has already claimed the lives of at least five people and shut off power for millions this week as it battered multiple Caribbean islands.
Fiona strengthened to a Category 4 storm early Wednesday over the Atlantic after passing the Turks and Caicos, and remained so until Friday afternoon.
The National Hurricane Center said in its 8 p.m. ET advisory the storm weakened slightly but still whipped hurricane-force winds extending more than 100 miles from its center and tropical storm-force winds extending more than 300 miles.
Its center was about 215 miles southeast of Halifax Friday night.
“Although gradual weakening is forecast during the next couple of days, Fiona is expected to be a powerful hurricane-force cyclone when it moves across Atlantic Canada,” the center said.
Hurricane warning in parts of Nova Scotia
In Canada, hurricane warnings were in place for Nova Scotia from Hubbards to Brule and in Newfoundland from Parson’s Pond to Francois. Prince Edward Island and Isle-de-la-Madeleine are also under warnings.
“It has the potential to be very dangerous,” said John Lohr, the minister responsible for the Emergency Management Office for Nova Scotia. “Impacts are projected to be felt across the province. Every Nova Scotian should be preparing today,” Lohr added during an official update Thursday.
Residents should brace for damaging winds, high waves, coastal storm surge and heavy rainfall, which may lead to prolonged power outages, Lohr said. Emergency officials have encouraged people to secure outdoor items, trim trees, charge cell phones and create a 72-hour emergency kit.
The area has not seen a storm this intense for about 50 years, according to Chris Fogarty, manager for Canadian Hurricane Centre.
“Please take it seriously because we are seeing meteorological numbers in our weather maps that are rarely seen here,” Fogarty said.
Utility company Nova Scotia Power activated an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Friday morning which will serve as the central coordination area for outage restoration and response, according to a news release.
The company will also be working closely with the Nova Scotia Emergency Management Office.
“We are taking every precaution and will be ready to respond to Hurricane Fiona as safely and efficiently as possible,” Sean Borden, the storm lead coordinator for Nova Scotia Power, said in the release.
‘This is going to be a bad one’
Andy Francis, a fisherman in southwestern Newfoundland, was bracing for the storm this week, taking one boat out of the water and tying another to a nearby dock.
“This time it seems like everybody’s got the same consensus that this is going to be a bad one,” he told CBC News. Everyone else in the area, he told the station, was preparing as well, to help “minimize damage.”
“This is going to be a different one,” Francis told CBC.
Across Atlantic Canada, winds could be around 100 mph (160 kph) as Fiona is expected to weaken a little before it makes landfall on Nova Scotia, CNN meteorologists Rob Shackelford and Taylor Ward said.
Prince Edward Island officials implored residents to prepare for the worst as the storm looms.
Tanya Mullally, who serves as the province’s head of emergency management, said one of the most pressing concerns with Fiona is the historic storm surge it is expected to unleash.
“Storm surge is certainly going to be significant. … Flooding that we have not seen nor can we measure against,” Mullally said Thursday during an update.
Canadian Hurricane Center modeling suggests the surge “depending on the area, could be anywhere from 1.8 to 2.4 meters (6-8 feet),” said Bob Robichaud, a meteorologist with the center.
The northern portion of the island stands to bear the brunt of the storm due to the direction of the winds, which will likely cause property damage and coastal flooding, Mullally said.
All provincial campgrounds, beaches and day-use parks as well as the Shubenacadie Wildlife Park closed Friday, the Nova Scotia Emergency Management Office said.
Fiona’s power outages continue
Earlier this week, Fiona damaged homes and upended critical power and water infrastructure for millions of people across Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Turks and Caicos.
Days after Puerto Rico experienced an islandwide blackout as Fiona made landfall Sunday, only 41% of customers had their power restored Friday, according to numbers from power grid operator LUMA Energy posted on the island’s emergency portal system.
The mass power outage is happening as much of Puerto Rico endures extreme heat, which caused temperatures to feel as hot as 112 degrees on Thursday, according to the National Weather Service. Temperatures remained in the 80s and 90s on Friday, according to CNN meteorologist Taylor Ward.
Daniel Hernández, director of renewable projects at LUMA, explained critical places including hospitals will be prioritized before repairs can begin on an individual level.
“This is a normal process. The important thing is that everyone is calm … we are working to ensure that 100% of customers have service as soon as possible,” Hernández said.
And more than a quarter of clients on the island did not have water service or had intermittent service, according to the emergency portal system.
In the Dominican Republic, Fiona affected more than 8,00 households and destroyed 2,262 homes, according to the nation’s head of emergency operations, Maj. Gen. Juan Méndez García.
He said more than 210,000 homes and businesses were still in the dark Thursday morning, and another 725,246 customers were without running water.
“This was something incredible that we’ve never seen before,” Ramona Santana in Higüey, Dominican Republic, told CNN en Español this week. “We’re in the streets with nothing, no food, no shoes, clothes, just what’s on your back. … We don’t have anything. We have God, and the hope help will come.”
Fiona also menaced parts of the Turks and Caicos Tuesday, and areas of the British territory were still without power earlier this week, namely on Grand Turk, South Caicos, Salt Cay, North Caicos and Middle Caicos, said Anya Williams, acting governor of the islands.
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CNN’s Allison Chinchar, Melissa Alonso, Ana Melgar Zuniga, and Amanda Musa contributed to this report.