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Hurricane Fiona

September 26, 2022

By Paul Homewood

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It’s the height of the Atlantic hurricane season, and as usual when a big one comes along it is greeted with the usual apocalyptic headlines:

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Hundreds of thousands of people have been left without power, after Storm Fiona hit Canada’s coastline.

Fiona was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm on Friday.

But parts of three provinces experienced torrential rain and winds of up to 160km/h (99mph), with trees and powerlines felled and houses washed into the sea.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the situation was critical, and promised to provide support through the army.

Officials have yet to share reports of fatalities or serious injuries, but authorities are dealing with extensive flooding.

In a briefing Mr Trudeau described Fiona as "a very powerful and dangerous storm" and said the army will be deployed to help with assessment and clean-up efforts. His government has already responded positively to a request by Nova Scotia authorities for assistance.

"If there is anything the federal government can do to help, we will be there," he said, adding that he would no longer travel to Japan to attend the funeral of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Tropical storm warnings were issued for the Atlantic provinces of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and New Brunswick, as well as in parts of Quebec.

The country’s eastern region could receive up to 10in (25cm) of rain, increasing the risk of flash flooding.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-63011195

So first the facts:

  • Fiona had already been downgraded to an post-tropical cyclone the day before landfall
  • At landfall on Nova Scotia, sustained wind speeds were 80 Kts, equivalent to Cat 1 strength.
  • On its track north over the Atlantic, Fiona peaked at Cat 4.

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There is nothing remotely unusual about any of this.

Contrary to the popular myth, hurricanes and tropical storms are regular occurrences in Canada, and many others skirt offshore:

 

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https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/hurricane-history-canada-1.4284076

According to Wikipedia, 140 tropical and extra-tropical storms impacted Canada between 1951 and 2020, an average of two a year:

 

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Canada_hurricanes

A glimpse at the 1950s gives an idea of the impact of hurricanes on Canada:

 

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Canada_hurricanes

 

The most powerful hurricane recorded in Canadian waters was Ella in 1978, a Cat 4 storm with 140 mph winds measured just offshore of Nova Scotia. Fortunately Ella did not make landfall, instead passing to the east of the coastline.

The strongest to make landfall in Canada was Ginny in 1963, which was a Cat 2 storm when it hit Nova Scotia.

Whether the Newfoundland hurricane which hit in 1775 was stronger, we have no way of knowing. But we do know it was Canada’s deadliest natural disaster, leaving some 4000 dead in its wake. According to NOAA:

 

On September 9, 1775, a violent hurricane swept over the British colony of Newfoundland.  It sank many fishing boats and two British naval vessels to become the deadliest hurricane to strike Canada (and one of the top ten deadliest Atlantic hurricanes).  It was also the first one in Canada’s recorded history.

The week before, a hurricane ravaged the Outer Banks of North Carolina and eastern Virginia.  It is not known if this was the same storm that struck Newfoundland or if there were two storms hitting in close succession.  The NC/VA hurricane damaged crops, killed over 100 people, and drove a British naval vessel (HMS Otter) ashore, where it was captured and destroyed by Virginia rebels.  The Newfoundland storm was responsible for over 4000 deaths, mostly sailors at sea.  There were also reports of storm surge on land reaching anywhere from 20 to 30 feet (6.5-10 m).

David Ludlum, in his book “Early American Hurricanes” dubbed the first storm the “Independence Hurricane” as it occurred during the opening months of America’s War of Independence.  Stormy weather was noted by rebels holding the Bunker Hill heights on Sept. 3rd and 4th as the storm swept northward over Boston.

https://noaahrd.wordpress.com/2015/09/09/240th-anniversary-of-the-great-newfoundland-hurricane/

32 Comments
  1. September 26, 2022 11:33 am

    Is that true or did you hear it on the BBC?

    • Philip Wood permalink
      September 26, 2022 11:49 am

      … and that is the title of an excellent book by David Sedgwick.

  2. MR PETER SEWARDS permalink
    September 26, 2022 11:50 am

    Trudeau showing complete disrespect to Shinzo Abe and the Japanese people by not attending his funeral, because of heavy rainfall. Ridiculous and rude.

    • Dana permalink
      September 26, 2022 1:12 pm

      Trudeau intended to go but the electorate complained that he had been out of the country too much esp. on vacation and should stay home and lead the country.

      • Winman permalink
        September 26, 2022 11:07 pm

        Exactly the same as his mate Airbus Albo (Australian PM). Has been out of the country more than in the country since he was ‘elected’.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      September 26, 2022 4:00 pm

      I am sure they won’t have missed Adolf Trudeau that much.

    • John Hultquist permalink
      September 26, 2022 6:47 pm

      Response to Mr P S:
      The “ocean-facing” areas did get hit with strong winds and water surges.
      What I wonder about is — what is Trudeau (or any head of state) supposed to do after a natural disaster. Showing up just gets in the way of trained people and responders – a distraction they don’t need.
      He should go to Japan.

  3. September 26, 2022 11:51 am

    These are known as “noreasters” (north easters) and can occur in both hurricane season and winter. They are not uncommon.

  4. MrGrimNasty permalink
    September 26, 2022 12:07 pm

    Yep, usual BBC crazy climate catastrophizing.
    Obviously it briefly flung some air north, so wait for follow up Arctic record heatwave headline.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      September 26, 2022 12:57 pm

      The warmer the Arctic in winter the faster the earth cools…

      • Harry Passfield permalink
        September 26, 2022 6:18 pm

        Exactly. Our young should be taught (I was) that a body sweats to cool itself.

      • John Hultquist permalink
        September 26, 2022 6:50 pm

        To Harry P.:
        Not dogs. They huff and puff.
        Gaia of the Northern Hemisphere is doing a lot of cooling in September. As always.

  5. September 26, 2022 12:32 pm

    While the ‘Saxby Gale’, October 1869, following a similar track, appears to have been a Category 2 event.

    Click to access b2703.pdf

    Ruffman, Alan, “A Multi-disciplinary and Inter-scientific Study of The Saxby Gale: an October 4-5 1869 hybrid hurricane and record storm surge”: CMOS Bulletin SCMO, June 1999, Vol. 27, No. 3, p67-73

    with lower pressure

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1869_Saxby_Gale

  6. September 26, 2022 12:35 pm

    Global warming hysteria in Canada is comedy gold. They totally neglect the benefit of going from frigid -35C nights to a balmy -30C, and it is all based on an increased risk of very infrequent tornadoes, and the horror of having a navigable Northwest passage in summer.

    What is it about cold climates that does this to people, the effect is also present in Greenland, Scotland, Tasmania and New Zealand?

    • Colin permalink
      September 26, 2022 2:32 pm

      Reading Lamb’s opus on World climate history, it’s his opinion that Scotland’s decline up until the mid 18th Century was brought about by the Little Ice Age. Canada’s done quite well since then. Any return to Little Ice Age conditions would render the country unfit for agriculture north of Lake Superior and effectively split it on two.

  7. The Informed Consumer permalink
    September 26, 2022 12:41 pm

    Fiona passed over Bermuda where my sister lives. No big deal.

  8. Dave Ward permalink
    September 26, 2022 1:25 pm

    I’m surprised they don’t bury more power lines underground. I accept this isn’t cheap, and wouldn’t be cost effective in somewhere like the UK. However, given that tropical storms like this are regular events, it would make the job of clearing up much easier when there aren’t live HV conductors sparking all over the place!

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      September 26, 2022 4:15 pm

      Isn’t there a problem with losses when you place AC cables underground for long distances?
      It’s something from 50 years ago so I could have got this wrong. But what I remember is that there are capacitive losses with AC, the size of the loss depends on dielectric constant. For air it’s very low, but soil is high and damp soil higher.
      One reason for AC is that is relatively easy to convert between HV and LV. Using HV for transmission lines reduces resistive losses.

      • Dave Ward permalink
        September 26, 2022 7:10 pm

        You may well be right, but those losses will probably be less serious at the lower voltages used on local distribution. The regular images of
        roads blocked by broken/fallen poles with uninsulated (and quite possibly live) cables laying all over the place is what I was thinking about.

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      September 26, 2022 6:01 pm

      Was it “historic” and “extreme”?

      It seems relatively ordinary.

      • John Hultquist permalink
        September 26, 2022 6:58 pm

        P-44:
        If you were a resident of Port aux Basques then “historic” and “extreme” might well be words you would use.
        On the other hand, “unprecedented” — as Paul’s post shows — it is not.

  9. Keith Harrison permalink
    September 26, 2022 2:49 pm

    Fiona was a large hurricane, and large hurricanes with lower indicated wind speeds can actually be very destructive and deceiving. Our weather service calls this landfaller at Cat 2. Additionally, to indicate strength of this monster was the record setting sea level pressure of 932.7 millibars at Hart Island off Cape Breton Island. The previous record was recorded in St Antony NL at 941 millibars. Gusts as high as 180 km per hour. Waves were recorded by buoys at 12 to 15 m average with some peaks of waves at 30 m. Massive. The Canadian Maritimes know much about heavy weather and this was a monster and record breaker.

    • MrGrimNasty permalink
      September 26, 2022 6:46 pm

      No one is disputing that it wasn’t a bad storm.
      However, it was not a Hurricane at landfall (the UK experiences hurricane force winds without it being a hurricane).
      The low pressure was not exceptional, 927 mb was recorded just off Labrador only last June.
      You are mixing apple and orange measurements.
      Where are the barrow loads of bodies?

      • MrGrimNasty permalink
        September 26, 2022 6:47 pm

        Was a bad storm even!

      • roger permalink
        September 26, 2022 10:31 pm

        Indeed the UK does and where I live we call it a good wildfowling night.

      • Keith Harrison permalink
        September 26, 2022 10:38 pm

        Brits seem to be a very tough lot with all their wind and storms. Good thing Canadians have it easy no Arctic ice, little snow and balmy temperatures throughout the year. (Big Sigh!)

      • MrGrimNasty permalink
        September 27, 2022 9:13 am

        Once again, no one is disputing Canada has more extreme weather than the UK or that Fiona was a very bad storm.
        What is being discussed is the misrepresentation/hype by the BBC of what is (or not as they would like to claim) expected weather.

  10. September 26, 2022 3:04 pm

    Trudeau was quoted about using their armed forces to help their citizens affected by Fiona, “We’ll employ all of our military resources to assist our Canadian citizens, included all 3 of our Army half-tracks and every one of our 6 military jeeps to help with this disaster!”

    • Gerry, England permalink
      September 26, 2022 4:01 pm

      Makes a change from Adolf Trudeau setting his thugs loose on innocent protesters and trampling disabled women with horses.

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      September 26, 2022 5:59 pm

      But since they are all EVs and the electricity is out…

  11. September 26, 2022 9:12 pm

    Thank you Paul, well said.

  12. September 27, 2022 8:47 am

    NBC News reports:

    Hurricane Ian has the potential to bring up to 15 feet of storm surge in some areas of western Florida, as well as prolonged wind and flooding, said Rick Davis, a senior meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Tampa office.

    “The Tampa Bay area hasn’t seen this type of storm in decades, if not 100 years,” Davis said. “All the threats that hurricanes can have — we are definitely in the high to extreme category in all these threats.”

    https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/live-blog/hurricane-ian-live-updates-rcna49477

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