There are several reasons why Hurricane Fiona is already being called a “historic storm” for Eastern Canada, and one of them is its unusual left hook.
The storm’s tracking released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows that once it passes 40 parallel north, its path appears to veer slightly to the left, heading straight for Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.
Bob Robichaux, a meteorologist at the Canadian Hurricane Center, doesn’t think that path will change.
“The path of the storm remains pretty much the same as what we’ve been talking about for the last few days,” Robichaux said at a virtual media briefing on Friday.
“The storm is expected to hit eastern Nova Scotia. But… impacts will be felt far beyond where the center of the storm actually passes.”
What makes this storm path unusual, experts say, is that hurricanes moving north from the subtropics typically turn east, away from the coast, when they reach mid-latitudes, which are between 30 and 60 degrees north latitude.
This is due to the Coriolis effect. NOAA describes the Coriolis effect as how the counterclockwise rotation of the Earth causes long-distance traveling weather events, such as storms, to look like they are leaning to the right in the northern hemisphere and to the left in the southern hemisphere.
As NOAA explains, proximity to the equator determines forward speed. Near the poles, the Earth rotates more slowly. Near the equator, it rotates faster. Because of this, weather systems move north from the equator to the east because they move from the faster moving equator to the slower moving northern hemisphere.
However, in the case of Fiona, the Weather Network reports that an intense high-level trough is causing the storm to move to the left or west, despite the Coriolis effect.
Although the curve does not appear severe, it is significant compared to the easterly curve that a hurricane usually takes. The Canadian Hurricane Center says the center of Fiona will touch down directly over eastern Nova Scotia late Saturday morning, after which it will be classified as a powerful subtropical storm.
Hurricane Sandy, to which this storm is already being compared, followed the same path in October 2012 when it swerved into New Jersey and New York. In New York, this storm resulted in the death of 44 residents, damage and loss of economic activity amounting to about $19 billion.
Another contributing factor to Fiona’s projected severity is water temperatures off the east coast, according to AccuWeather. Hurricanes are usually weakened gradually by colder waters as they reach the North Atlantic. However, this year the water temperature in the North Atlantic, especially south of Atlantic Canada, is 6-11°C higher than the average.
“These warmer-than-normal waters could result in the hurricane weakening less or turning into a downpour more slowly,” AccuWeather said on Thursday.
Fiona is expected to bring dangerous winds, heavy rains, big waves and storm surges to Atlantic Canada. Impacts are likely to include extended utility outages, wind damage to trees and structures, coastal flooding, and potential road erosion. Parts of Nova Scotia could see more than 150mm of rain by Sunday.
“We are expecting landfall on Saturday morning as a very powerful post-tropical storm, and after landfall, this storm will again move to the northeast,” Robichaux said. “As of Friday afternoon, (Fiona) remains on track for an extreme weather event here in Eastern Canada.”
Government officials say people should prepare for the storm by securing outside items, trimming dry branches to reduce the risk of them falling, and stocking up on water, cooked food, heating fuel, flashlights and radios, extra batteries and other essentials. .