Without any sign of slowing down, hurricane Fiona should hit eastern Quebec as early as Friday evening or Saturday morning, warned Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC).
The department has issued a hurricane warning for the Magdalen Islands. Warnings indeed for Gaspésie, Anticosti Island and the Lower North Shore include high winds, heavy rains, storm surges and tropical storms.
The storm is likely to bring winds up to 160 km/h and large waves up to 8 meters to the Magdalen Islands, as well as large waves, coastal erosion and flooding on the entire eastern seaboard of Quebec, according to the warnings.
Peter Kimbell, meteorologist in charge of warning preparedness with ECCC, said the strong gusts of wind could last up to 12 hours.
“To put that into perspective, last May we had a big derecho that went through southern Ontario and southern Quebec into Quebec City, and we had winds of 120 to 130 km/h for 10 minutes,” he said.
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He said residents of the Magdalen Islands should expect long periods of power outages and damage to infrastructure.
Weather conditions in the Magdalen Islands should begin to improve on Saturday evening, according to Jean-Philippe Bégin, spokesperson for the Canadian Hurricane Center.
How are government officials preparing?
Flights and ferries to the Magdalen Islands have been cancelled.
The Sûreté du Québec has dispatched additional provincial police. Hydro-Québec has deployed additional teams to the Magdalen Islands to lend a hand if necessary.
Forillon National Park, near Gaspé, Quebec, closes as of noon ET. Events that were scheduled in the park over the weekend have all been cancelled.
Félix Caron, acting director of the Gaspésie and Îles-de-la-Madeleine regional public security office, said the Quebec government is staying in touch with everyone involved.
“Operational conferences take place regularly, in particular with our partners from Environment Canada, to inform all our constant partners of the evolution of the situation”, he specified.
The cables have been doubled to prevent communications from being cut off in the Magdalen Islands, he said.
Some cities also have their own emergency plans in place. The Mayor of Grosse-Île in the Magdalen Islands, Diana-Joy Davies, indicated that the municipality was sending alerts to warn its citizens. She said the city had learned from past storms and was well prepared for Fiona.
“We now have satellite phones and the big generator to run the municipal building,” she said.
Davies said the municipality will be able to open its community center if someone needs shelter, but she hopes that won’t be necessary.
“Nobody wants to travel in hurricane winds,” she said.
What should you do to prepare?
ECCC is urging people in the area to stay indoors and avoid going near coastlines and rivers. The Canadian Hurricane Center updates this map regularly to show the storm’s path.
Caron also recommends preparing emergency kits with extra food, water, clothing, battery-operated radios and other supplies to sustain them for at least 72 hours.
He said people should also put away garden furniture and anything that can be blown away.
Iles-de-la-Madeleine resident Helena Burke said many people around her were picking up groceries and gas, and decluttering their backyards in anticipation of the storm.
“It’s an annual affair for us,” she said. “We usually get the tail end of a tropical storm or hurricane usually around this time of year, every year.”
And while she knows Fiona could be “a bit worse” than other storms that have hit the area in the past, she said locals aren’t too worried.
“All we can do is lie down and wait.”