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Fiona slams Canada's Atlantic coast
By Adrienne Vogt and Matt Meyer, CNN
Rene Roy, the editor-in-chief at a community newspaper in Newfoundland, told CNN that Fiona is the worst storm he's ever experienced.
"I've lived through Hurricane Juan, and that was a foggy day compared to this monster," Roy, who is based in hard-hit Port aux Basques, said. "This is unreal."
The 50-year-old, who leads the region's Wreckhouse Press newspaper, said there are uprooted trees and homes washed away by the storm surge.
"I have seen wind that has pulled trees out of the ground, homes swept away by water, homes that have been lost to the ocean," he said. Roy said he counted at least eight homes that washed away, and he believes there could be more.
"I've seen a boat in the middle of a playground. Cabins and swing sets floating by. It is surreal what is happening here," he told CNN.
When Roy woke up at 6 a.m. ET and looked out his window, he expected to see Channel Head, an island off the southern tip of Port aux Basques. But it was nowhere to be seen, overtaken by the storm surge.
"Nobody in Newfoundland has seen that before. That woke me up in a heartbeat. That was terrifying," he said.
Roy fled his house and is now staying with his cousin on higher ground. He doesn't know if his home is still standing. Emergency personnel stopped him from driving back to check on the property, telling him it was unsafe.
Crews are scrambling to restore power in Nova Scotia as nearly three-quarters of the province is without electricity due to post-tropical cyclone Fiona, Premier Tim Houston said this afternoon at a news conference.
“The situation right now is where none of us want us to be,” Houston said. “I dread to think of where we would be had Nova Scotians not taken every single possible precaution to protect themselves and their families.”
Houston described the damage across the province as “shocking,” with communities facing washed-out roads and downed trees and power lines.
Peter Gregg, CEO of Nova Scotia Power, said weather conditions are still too severe in many areas for workers to begin assessing and repairing damage.
According to Gregg, over 900 power technicians are on the way to Nova Scotia.
Gregg said there’s still an active storm in many parts of the province despite some weather and wind improvements, so some customers might see power outages for a couple of days.
“We’re working to restore power as quickly as we can, as soon as it’s safe to do so,” Gregg said.
Halifax Regional Municipality Mayor Mike Savage said communication has been a challenge during the power outage.
“The magnitude of this storm has been breathtaking,” Savage said. “It turned out to be everything predicted.”
Savage said an apartment roof collapse caused 100 people to evacuate, but he’s grateful there have not been too many injuries or any reported deaths.
Nearly 370,000 customers across Nova Scotia are without power, according to poweroutage.com.
Post-tropical cyclone Fiona's sustained winds have dropped slightly to 75 mph (about 121 kph), which is still equivalent to a Category 1 hurricane, according to the latest update from the National Hurricane Center.
"Conditions across Nova Scotia should gradually improve over the next 3 to 6 hours," the Canadian Hurricane Centre's Bob Robichaud said in a press conference Saturday afternoon.
Despite the gradual weakening of the storm, the NHC warned that "significant impacts from high winds, storm surge, and heavy rainfall are still expected."
Fiona is currently in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, roughly 105 miles (170 kilometers) west-northwest of Port Aux Basques, Newfoundland, and will move across Labrador this evening and over the Labrador Sea on Sunday. Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 115 miles (185 km) from the center and tropical storm-force winds extend outward up to 405 miles (650 km).
The CHC has discontinued the tropical storm watch for Labrador and the tropical storm warnings for all of Nova Scotia.
Utility crews in Nova Scotia are dealing with numerous downed trees after Fiona, now considered a post-tropical cyclone, slammed into the region this morning.
In a series of tweets, Nova Scotia Power said: “Hurricane Fiona has been fierce, making its mark across NS. While winds have slowed in parts of the province, it’s important to remember that this is still an active storm and areas like Cape Breton are still experiencing high wind.”
The utility company is asking residents to stay away from downed lines as crews enter affected neighborhoods to assess the damage and make repairs.
The company said it cannot enter some areas yet with bucket trucks because winds are still over 80 km/h (about 50 mph).
“We know this is hard on our customers. Please know that our crews will be out there as soon as they can,” it said.
According to PowerOutage.ca, over 370,000 customers in Nova Scotia remain without power as of Saturday afternoon.
Public Safety Canada warned those affected by flooding from Fiona to take a few steps to keep themselves safe, including turning off furnaces, gas valves and electricity.
"If you’re in danger of imminent flooding, move any furniture and electrical appliances to ground level and *don’t* attempt to shut off electricity if any water is present," it added.
If evacuation is needed, the agency advises people to take along safety kits and to never drive through floodwaters.
If you lose power, here are some tips to stay safe:
- Stay home: Staying indoors is your best bet during a winter power outage, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Take stock of the essentials: In case the power outage lasts a few days, you should have the following on hand: A three- to seven-day supply of food and water, flashlight and extra batteries, a battery-powered radio, extra medicine and first-aid supplies.
- Be careful of carbon monoxide: Generators can release poisonous carbon monoxide if you use them inside your home. If you're using one this week, keep it outside, about 20 feet away from your home, the CDC advises.
- Check on your loved ones: When safe to do so, check in with the people around you to make sure they’re OK. Those who have medical equipment that require power, like respirators, should be taken to locations with generators or a friend’s or neighbor’s home that hasn’t been impacted.
As it churned through the Atlantic Ocean, Fiona left devastation on Puerto Rico and some other Caribbean islands.
The first major hurricane of this year’s Atlantic season killed at least five people: one in Guadeloupe, two in Puerto Rico and two in the Dominican Republic.
Puerto Rico: Hitting almost exactly five years after Hurricane Maria, Fiona delivered flooding rains and an islandwide blackout as it made landfall Sunday, with more than 450,000 people without water or with intermittent service, according to the government’s emergency portal system.
As of Saturday morning, about 785,000 customers were without power, according to poweroutage.us.
Across the island, more than 800 people were housed in dozens of shelters as of Wednesday, according to Puerto Rico’s housing secretary, William Rodriguez.
President Joe Biden approved a major disaster declaration Wednesday for the US territory, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. New York City’s mayor has deployed staff from city agencies to Puerto Rico to help officials surveying damage.
Dominican Republic: As of Friday morning, there were over 210,000 customers without power in the Dominican Republic, according to Maj. Gen. Juan Méndez García, director of the country's emergency operations center.
Méndez García said more than 725,000 customers were without running water across the country as of Thursday morning.
A total of 8,708 households have been affected by Hurricane Fiona and 2,262 homes have been destroyed due to the storm, Méndez García said.
A woman was rescued from the water Saturday afternoon after her house in Newfoundland collapsed as Fiona, a post-tropical cyclone, swept through, according to Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
The Port aux Basques woman was taken to the hospital, but police said the extent of her injuries is unknown at this time.
Police are working to confirm reports of a second woman getting swept into the water as her home collapsed, according to RCMP.
Police reiterated pleas for residents to stay home and off the roads as crews deal with electrical fires and flooding.
RCMP called for residents to “be safe” and “respect the evacuation order.”
“We’re still in this storm,” Port aux Basques Mayor Brian Button said Saturday afternoon in a video update posted on his Facebook page. “This is serious, I’m serious with you when I am telling you need to stay put.”
Button repeated his earlier request for residents not to leave their homes to take pictures of the storm and its aftermath.
“Stay away,” Button said. “This is a state of emergency.”
The municipal government of Cape Breton Island, which is located at the eastern end of Nova Scotia, said it is not currently safe for anyone to travel and urged residents to continue to shelter in place.
Fiona caused downed power lines and trees, and communications systems are "under strain," officials said on Twitter.
The Cape Breton Regional Police also said that "more than 70 roads" have been affected by the storm and told drivers to stay home.