Hurricane Fiona Predicted To Slam Into Atlantic Canada

Fiona intensified into the 2022 Atlantic season's first major hurricane on Tuesday. While the storm's worst winds and rain may slip just to the west of Bermuda on Thursday night, the full brunt of the hurricane could slam headlong into Atlantic Canada's Gulf of St. Lawrence region this weekend, AccuWeather meteorologists warn.

A westward jog in Fiona's track since this weekend may be just enough to keep the hurricane's dangerous and damaging eye wall to the west of Bermuda. However, based on the latest forecast track, hurricane-force gusts are likely to impact the islands from late Thursday into early Friday.

Building codes in Bermuda are strict and require that structures are designed to handle 110 mph sustained winds and higher gusts. Still, some power outages are likely on the islands, and AccuWeather forecasters have rated Fiona, which was packing 115 mph sustained winds and moving north-northwest at 9 mph on Tuesday, a 2 on the AccuWeather RealImpact Scale for Hurricanes for the islands of Bermuda.

Fiona
Fiona is forecast to pass to the west of Bermuda as a Category 3 hurricane, which means a storm's maximum sustained winds are between 111 and 129 mph on the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale, or even as a Category 4 hurricane, which can pack sustained winds of 130 to 156 mph. AccuWeather

Rough seas will build in the waters surrounding Bermuda from Wednesday to Thursday. Forecasters advise cruise and shipping vessels that they may want to avoid the area as a precaution until after Fiona has moved away.

Fiona's rainfall is likely to be heavy enough to trigger urban flooding across Bermuda, but since rainwater is captured and repurposed there, heavy precipitation may be somewhat beneficial.

Two factors could lead to Bermuda facing the wrath of a full-blown major hurricane Thursday into Friday: if Fiona were to grow substantially in size or if its track were to shift farther to the east, the island group would be subject to much more dire conditions.

Fiona is forecast to pass to the west of Bermuda as a Category 3 hurricane, which means a storm's maximum sustained winds are between 111 and 129 mph on the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale, or even as a Category 4 hurricane, which can pack sustained winds of 130 to 156 mph.

Once Fiona clears Bermuda, AccuWeather forecasters expect the storm to cruise on a northeasterly track toward Atlantic Canada and remain away from the shoreline of the U.S.

About 1,000 miles farther to the north of Bermuda, the coastline of Atlantic Canada protrudes much farther to the east, compared to the U.S., and is occasionally a target for hurricanes. With progressively colder waters prevalent over the North Atlantic, due to the icy Labrador Current, powerful hurricanes often quickly lose their punch or transform into tropical wind and rainstorms.

Fiona
Waves stirred up by Fiona will propagate outward for hundreds of miles in the form of large swells that can bring dangerous surf conditions to much of the Eastern Seaboard of the United States through this week. AccuWeather

But this year, water temperatures have been running 5-10 F warmer than average over the North Atlantic, especially just south of Atlantic Canada, and those warmer-than-usual waters may result in less weakening of the hurricane or a slower transformation to a rainstorm. Water temperatures range from near 60 F near the coast of Nova Scotia to 84 F off the southeast coast of New England.

A dip in the jet stream over eastern Canada late this week will likely allow Fiona to take a path into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, western Newfoundland, or possibly northern Nova Scotia from Friday night to Saturday.

Much of the coastline surrounding the Gulf of St. Lawrence is hilly and not prone to widespread storm surge flooding like areas along the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coasts of the U.S. But, should the storm track into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, high water levels and significant coastal flooding can occur in the region, and the storm could make a mess for maritime operations in the region.

Fiona
View of a park in Samana, Dominican Republic, on September 19, 2022, after the passage of Hurricane Fiona. Hurricane Fiona dumped torrential rain on the Dominican Republic after triggering major flooding in Puerto Rico and widespread power blackouts in both Caribbean islands. Erika SANTELICES / AFP/Getty Images

"Fiona will bring widespread power outages due to high winds, flooding due to torrential rain and isolated storm surge and massive seas offshore and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist and Canada Weather Expert Brett Anderson said.

Strong winds from Fiona over the North Atlantic just south of Newfoundland and the Gulf of St. Lawrence can allow swells to build to 40 feet or higher.

As the storm encounters the colder waters of Atlantic Canada, then lands and begins the transformation from a hurricane, a tremendous amount of wind energy and rain will expand outward in the region.

The heaviest rains are likely to shift to the west and north of the storm center, and the strongest winds may focus near the center and to the east of the track.

Fiona
Sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic on Sept. 20, 2022. Fiona's rainfall is likely to be heavy enough to trigger urban flooding across Bermuda, but since rainwater is captured and repurposed there, heavy precipitation may be somewhat beneficial. AccuWeather

"St. John's, located in the eastern part of Newfoundland, may be hit with very strong winds, even if the center of the storm tracks much farther west near the Gulf of St. Lawrence," Anderson said. "While only a light to moderate amount of rain is likely in St. John's, power outages and coastal flooding could be more of a threat to the city and its heavy population."

The storm track and behavior may allow some of the heaviest rain to reach Halifax, Nova Scotia. Portions of the Canadian province and others are in need of rain, but not the magnitude that Fiona can deliver, which will likely result in flooding. The full brunt of the storm in terms of both high winds and torrential rain and pounding seas may be felt near Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

"There is the possibility that Fiona could set low barometric pressure records in the region," Anderson said. "The central pressure of the storm may dip to or below the Atlantic Canada record of 27.76 inches of Mercury (940.2 millibars) around the time of landfall Friday night to early Saturday." That record was set during a non-tropical storm on January 21, 1977, in St. Anthony, Newfoundland, and Labrador.

Fiona
Fiona's path, late week. The heaviest rains are likely to shift to the west and north of the storm center, and the strongest winds may focus near the center and to the east of the track. AccuWeather

Fiona will be a "rare storm," according to AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Jon Porter. Not only will Fiona remain rather intense for a tropical system heading toward Atlantic Canada due to the warmer water, but its track will also be a bit unusual as it is expected to make a northwestward jog, making a direct hit.

"In September, there have been 11 named tropical systems that made landfall as a hurricane in Atlantic Canada from 1944 to 2021," AccuWeather Senior Weather editor and meteorologist Jesse Ferrell said.

The strongest hurricane to hit Atlantic Canada was Hurricane Ginny, a Category 2 storm in 1963. Maximum sustained winds at the time of landfall near Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, were 105 mph. The most recent hurricane to hit the region was Larry last year, a Category 1 on Marticut Island, Newfoundland, and Labrador, with maximum winds near 80 mph.

Produced in association with AccuWeather.

This story was provided to Newsweek by Zenger News.