PEI officials are warning Islanders to get ready ahead of the forecast landfall of Hurricane Fiona this weekend, saying the storm could be comparable to Hurricane Juan’s 2003 arrival.
The PEI Emergency Measures Organization has itself activated Level 1 enhanced monitoring with the tropical storm system continuing to move closer to Atlantic Canada.
At a news conference Wednesday afternoon, officials said it’s still challenging to assess the full potential impact the hurricane will have. So far, they’re anticipating power outages, a potential loss of cellphone service in some areas, tree and structural damage, and coastal flooding, with storm surges a strong possibility around the Island’s shores.
EMO’s Tanya Mullally said the province has been in contact with its partners and the Canadian Hurricane Center to develop a plan for the next few days. She said the CHC believes the event could be similar to Hurricane Juan, which ravaged the region in 2003.
“If you recall back to Juan, there was this very distinctive line of really heavy wind damage in the Charlottetown area and then more significant rain damage or rain impacts up in the Summerside area,” she said.
“Size of the storm is significant, there’s a lot to unpack with this, and kind of refine. But the anticipation is it could be comparable…. It depends where the track goes, the intensity and the structure of the storm. But it should be a comparable event.”
Environment Canada issued a special weather statement early on Wednesday, forecasting heavy rain ahead of the storm system will start Thursday night.
The agency expects strong winds to begin Friday night and peak on Saturday.
Daily briefings ahead
Officials said they aim to hold daily news conferences updating Islanders during the next couple of days and in the days following Fiona’s landfall.
Minister of Justice and Public Safety Darlene Compton said they’re already planning for a recovery following the storm, though their current focus is on preparedness.
Compton said the Department of Social Development and Housing is working on a plan to support those who are precariously housed.
The department announced Wednesday afternoon that a temporary emergency shelter will be set up at Charlottetown’s Jack Blanchard Hall for people living in the city’s temporary encampments. It urged anyone experiencing homeless to go there directly for intake.
Islanders asked to be prepared
Meanwhile, Islanders are being advised to review their emergency plans.
The province said residents should replenish their emergency preparedness kits, and include provisions such as non-perishable food, water, and heat and fuel supplies that will sustain households for five days if needed. It said Islanders should preferably get the supplies they need before Friday, when winds are expected to start picking up.
The City of Charlottetown noted that people should be ready to take care of themselves during emergencies year-round, and be prepared for potential emergency response delays and disrupted access to suppliers.
The city said a 72-hour emergency kit should include:
- A supply of water for between three and seven days
- Non-perishable food
- A freshly stocked first aid kit
- Prescription and non-prescription medicines
- Formula, diapers and other baby supplies, if needed
- A manual can opener
- Battery-powered radios and flashlights with extra batteries
- Blankets and a change of clothing for each household member (in case of a need to relocate from your home)
- Candles and matches or a lighter
- A charged cell phone
The city also said people should secure loose objects outside their homes that could be damaged or become dangerous projectiles during extremely high winds.
It encouraged people to have a device that can receive updates from emergency personnel officials without needing an electricity source, citing as an example a hand-crank radio.
Charlottetown residents are also being asked to sign up with the Charlottetown Alert System. Information on that can be found on the city’s website.
Trees could come down
The province recommends that all Islanders check their smoke alarms, unclog their gutters to prevent flooding, and if they can, call in crews to remove any overhanging branches of trees near power lines ahead of the landfall.
Mullally said trees are more likely to be uprooted by the storm because of the rain that started falling on PEI this week after weeks of extremely dry weather.
She encouraged people to stay home on Saturday, during and after the storm, while power restoration and other crews work to make roadways safer.