As Hurricane Fiona continues to pick up speed moving toward Atlantic Canada, emergency management offices (EMOs) across the region are working with community partners to help keep residents safe during the storm.
In a live press conference Friday, Jason Mew, the director of the incident management division for the Nova Scotia EMO, says he expects the storm will be very serious and is urging everyone to be prepared.
He says the N.S. EMO activated the provincial coordination op centre at 8 a.m. Friday
“All our key partners — municipalities, provincial departments, federal key stakeholders, and critical infrastructure partners — they’ll be in our op centre and will be prioritizing restorations and looking at those impacts,” he said, adding that the wildland fire team has been activated as well.
Mew says steps have also been taken to protect those living without a home.
“We’ve had municipal and provincial officials reaching out to those who are living rough and they’ve set up various comfort centres and shelters,” he said.
Mew says transportation is available to bring people to the shelters where he says hot food will be available.
Matt Drover, the storm lead with Nova Scotia Power (NSP), says crews with the utility company are preparing for major outages.
He says, at this point, it’s difficult to say how long any outages may last.
“But rest assured, we are doing everything we can to get people staged around the province to restore power as quickly as possible,” said Drover.
He says once the storm is over, NSP crews will head out to assess any damages and to get a better understanding of how long it may take to get power back online.
“So really, it’s getting the crews out in the field to understand the level of damage,” said Dover.
As far as priorities for power restoration in Nova Scotia, Drover says crews’ first focus will be on downed wires and any emergencies.
“And then we’ll be focusing on our transmission system, working very closely with EMO, and working to make sure that once the transmission system is restored, we focus on hospitals and public health areas like that.”
Once power is restored to essential services, Drover says NSP will move into communities, sub-communities and individual houses to get power back online.
Erica Fleck, division chief of emergency management with Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency, says some areas, like the Halifax boardwalk and the Peggy’s Cove lighthouse, will be closed and barricaded to keep people away from the water.
“We are reminding residents and asking them not to go there, and again, to the Lawrencetown area where the waves and the wave-watchers tend to come out. It will be really unsafe, as well as any area near the water,” Fleck said.
Officials with the Cape Breton Regional Municipality say Centre 200 in Sydney will open Friday evening to act as an evacuation centre for residents.
Christina Lamey, the communications officer for Cape Breton Regional Municipality, says a homeless shelter on Townsend Street in downtown Sydney will be open with emergency capacity.
“So for those who are unhoused, that’s where we would ideally direct those residents to go,” said Lamey.
She adds residents should prepare for flooding and very high and destructive winds.
“Generally speaking, it’s a blanket of hurricane force winds across the region,” said Lamey. “That’s of course a threat to anybody who has large trees around their home, who’s right on the coastline.”
PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
During a press conference Friday afternoon, Prince Edward Island officials continued to advise residents to be as prepared for the inclement weather.
“We are in the last few hours before we start to really see the beginnings of Fiona, so if there are some last-minute things to get or to do, I suggest you do them now,” said P.E.I. Safety Minister Darlene Compton during the live press conference.
Compton says, as tempting as it may be, residents should stay indoors during the storm and not head outside for pictures and videos.
“Tonight, and overnight, and into tomorrow, some people may be curious and want to get closer to look at the storm. My message is simple: don’t,” she said.
“Don’t go near the water, don’t put yourselves and others at risk, it’s dangerous. You may then need emergency help and our first responders will come and help, but our resources really need to be focused on where we need them.”
Following Fiona, Compton says provincial crews and others will be on the ground as soon as it is safe to assess the damage.
“As we’ve said in the past few days, this storm is going to impact us and we will see damage. Our crews will be out, as well as fire services, conservation officers, and our commonality organizations, that will be supporting our province and residents,” said Compton.
Compton adds the province will have an online form launching Sunday for residents to report any damage.
“Islanders will be our eyes and ears too,” she said.
Compton says a phone number will also be made available Sunday for residents without internet to call and report damage.
Tanya Mullally, with P.E.I. EMO, says Islanders should expect significant rainfall and “winds that we haven’t experienced before.”
“We could see in excess of 120 to 130 kilometres per hour for a sustained period of time,” she said.
Because of the high winds, Mullally says a strong storm surge is likely.
“Most notably on the north side of the province and all those low-lying areas,” she said.
“But we could see impacts on other areas of the coast as well, not just to the north side. So, I wouldn’t want anyone to think that they’re out of harm’s way,” she said.
Mullally urges Islanders in areas that have experienced storm surges and flooding in the past, to secure their belongings, and possibly seek higher ground.
“So that you can ensure that yourself, your family and your friends remain safe,” she said.
On Thursday, the province raised its emergency response to Level 2.
NB Power says it now has 500 crews, including contractors, ready to go.
All week the power utility has been inspecting equipment — tools, trucks and gear — as well as briefing its field crews as much as possible.
Officials with the company say their focus is on the southeastern region of the province, and say it’s not “if” but “when” outages happen.
However, if the impacts of Fiona are not as bad in New Bruswick, NB Power will help its neighbours.
“We are collaborating with our neighbouring provinces to coordinate our response,” said NB Power spokesperson Dominique Couture.
“Right now, we are focusing on managing the potential impacts in New Brunswick and that’s our number one priority but if required and if appropriate we can certainly support restoration in other provinces.”
They are encouraging everyone to be prepared to go without power for 72 hours — which means have medical, food and safety supplies ready.