Former Ontarians getting crash course in storm preparation as Fiona closes in on Nova Scotia

·3 min read
Marquis Murray, left, and Amelia Smith, right, both moved to Nova Scotia from Ontario in the past two months. As new Maritimers, they're sharing their experiences preparing for a hurricane-strength post-tropical storm.  (Nathan Crocker and Vanessa Balintec/CBC - image credit)
Marquis Murray, left, and Amelia Smith, right, both moved to Nova Scotia from Ontario in the past two months. As new Maritimers, they're sharing their experiences preparing for a hurricane-strength post-tropical storm. (Nathan Crocker and Vanessa Balintec/CBC - image credit)

Amelia Smith heard many stories about Hurricane Hazel while growing up in Toronto.

Remembered as one of the worst storms in the city's history, Hazel swept through the area in 1954, flooding out roads, bridges and neighbourhoods and killing 81 people.

"You hear about that, but it's almost more of a myth. It's a legend," says Smith, who left Toronto to move to Antigonish, Nova Scotia just one month ago.

"But to actually now be going through it, to be experiencing that... it really brings it into new light."

All those stories about the devastation from Hazel are suddenly top of mind for Smith as she gets ready for Hurricane Fiona — which is expected to transform into a massive post-tropical storm that will bring hurricane-strength winds, heavy rain and large waves to Atlantic Canada early Saturday, after lashing Bermuda with heavy rains and winds, and pounding Puerto Rico with severe flooding.

Hurricanes in Canada are somewhat rare in part because they weaken considerably once they reach colder waters. But Nova Scotia is no stranger to extreme weather — it was hit by Hurricane Juan in 2003, and Hurricane Dorian in 2019. However, the Canadian Hurricane Centre says Fiona is bigger than Juan and stronger than Dorian, and calls it a "historic, extreme" event for Atlantic Canada.

"It is really nerve wracking," says Smith, adding she's prepared three days of food and water, and has a flashlight and batteries in case her electricity goes out.

"There's only so much you can prepare, and so you're just waiting and waiting for it to come."

WATCH | Hurricane Fiona could break records as it churns toward Atlantic Canada:

Marquis Murray can relate. He moved with his wife and two kids from Cobourg, Ont., to Halifax just two months ago, so he's had to learn the art of storm preparation fast. That includes tying down the canoes and protecting the solar panels and woodpiles on his off-grid property, communicating with his neighbours on best practices, and even sharing his routine online.

"It's really just about keeping people informed of what's happening," Murray says.

Having recently moved to Nova Scotia from Ontario, he says he thought of documenting their preparation for the hurricane as a way to let friends and family back home know what's going on.

The Canadian Hurricane Centre issued a hurricane watch over extensive coastal expanses of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland. Authorities in Nova Scotia sent an emergency alert warning of Fiona's arrival and urging people to say inside, avoid coastlines, charge devices and have enough supplies for at least 72 hours.

Since posting on TikTok, his video has received over 100,000 views 10,000 likes, and comments that Murray calls helpful.

"They're giving advice, lending a helping hand anyway they can and mostly just like providing encouragement," he says.

"It's been really supportive."

While Smith is worried about the incoming storm, it isn't her first time getting caught in extreme weather. Last year, she watched from Victoria as a "once in a century" storm led to flooding, mudslides and gas rations in southern B.C.

"The climate keeps getting worse and worse. We're going to have to expect these more and more."