As Hurricane Fiona barrels toward Atlantic Canada with landfall expected later this week, officials across the province are preparing for the storm and urging residents to do the same before it hits.
Representatives from the provincial Emergency Management Office, Nova Scotia Power, Cape Breton Regional Municipality and the Canadian Red Cross held a news conference about preparations Wednesday.
Jason Mew, director of EMO’s incident management division, said people shouldn’t wait until the last minute to get essential items.
“Driving through roads that are under water or running into debris from a fallen tree, it’s always best, if you can, to stay home during the storm,” Mew said.
“And really this is a time when we’re trying to reach out to people to make sure they’re prepared now so they’re not going out to a grocery store in the middle of the storm to look for bottled water or a phone charger.”
Bob Robichaud, a meteorologist for Environment and Climate Change Canada, said the latest information suggests Nova Scotia will be hardest hit by Fiona overnight Friday to Saturday.
“Just in terms of satellite imagery alone, we’re so much better at being able to track these things than we were just only five years ago,” Robichaud said.
“So the science is at a point now where we get a pretty good idea of where these storms are going to go, how intense they’re going to be, but always when we start to drill down to the local level, that’s where things can change a little bit.”
Strong wind, heavy rain
The storm is expected to bring strong winds, heavy rain and storm surges, and could result in power outages, flooding and serious damage.
Nova Scotia Power will be sending extra resources to Cape Breton to deal with anticipated power outages because eastern Nova Scotia is expected to bear the brunt of the storm.
Christina Lamey, a spokesperson for the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, said the local emergency management office has been preparing for days. Lamey said residents should prepare for longer power outages.
“We’re very much in the message now of telling people to be ready in every sense of the word, prepare around your house, prepare the materials you’re going to need — waters, batteries,” she said.
The Nova Scotia Emergency Management Office is asking people to prepare for Fiona by:
- Having enough food and water to last 72 hours.
- Securing any objects that can be blown around by wind.
- Moving watercraft to high ground.
- Filling vehicles with gas and parking them away from trees.
- Keeping pets indoors.
- Checking radio batteries and flashlights.
- Checking in on neighbours.
Ancel Langille, a senior manager with the Canadian Red Cross, said people don’t need to spend a lot of money on emergency kits.
“When it comes to a personal preparedness kit, you might be surprised how many of these items you might already have. I’m thinking of canned food, a can opener, bottled water to be prepared, extra medication on hand, supplies for your pets,” Langille said.
“There’s no need to go out and be extravagant in building a personal preparedness kit. It’s going to be what makes you comfortable should you be without power for a few days.”
Support for homeless
Some help will be available for people who do not have access to secure housing.
Bruce MacDonald, the emergency management lead for the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, said the homeless shelter in Sydney will be available, and has the ability to expand into an extreme weather centre in the facility’s basement if needed.
“We will look at anything else we can to provide additional supports as required,” MacDonald said during the news conference.
Langille said when the organization opens a shelter on behalf of a province or municipality, it is open to anyone.
“We don’t close the doors to anyone who needs support,” he said. “So if there is a shelter open in a municipality where anyone is coming because they’ve had to evacuate their home, our services will be available to anyone that shows up.”
Maggie-Jane Spray, a spokesperson for the Halifax Regional Municipality, said staff are reviewing options for those who are living at designated shelter locations and other sites, and that more information would be released soon.
After Hurricane Dorian, many people went without cellphone and internet service for days after the storm knocked out power to cellphone towers, and the backup batteries for wireless sites eventually drained.
The situation prompted then premier Stephen McNeil to say telecommunications companies should join the province’s emergency operations team during major storms to ensure services disruptions are minimized.
Mew said the province has been in contact with Bell, Eastlink and Rogers to identify who will be working with the province in the co-ordination centre during the storm. “We believe they’ll be fully engaged,” Mew said.
Telus told CBC News it has a response process in place for storms like Fiona.
“We are actively working with our partners to minimize impact and provide continuity of service for communities in the area, including ensuring access to generators and batteries in the event of a power outage,” Telus wrote in a statement.
“We will maintain critical lines of communication with our network partners to co-ordinate our efforts and our team is ready to work around the clock to support affected communities.”
In a statement to CBC News, Bell said the company is already in contact with the province, EMO and Nova Scotia Power and will work closely with them to keep customers connected.
During power outages, if backup batteries run out, Bell activates generators to keep sites up and running.
The company says it has already activated its internal emergency response process and crews are fuelling generators and checking up on sites.
Rogers said teams are fuelling generators and vehicles, and the company is participating in provincial emergency management calls across the region.