Quebecers brace themselves for Hurricane Fiona

Islander Huguette Leblanc was out getting supplies earlier on Friday, like many people on the Magdalen Islands. Hurricane Fiona is expected to hit this evening. (Isabelle Larose/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Islander Huguette Leblanc was out getting supplies earlier on Friday, like many people on the Magdalen Islands. Hurricane Fiona is expected to hit this evening. (Isabelle Larose/Radio-Canada - image credit)

With no signs of slowing down, Hurricane Fiona is expected to bear down on eastern Quebec as early as Friday night or Saturday morning, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) has warned.

The department issued a hurricane warning for the Magdalen Islands. Warnings in effect for the Gaspé peninsula, Anticosti Island and the Lower North Shore include heavy wind, heavy rain, storm surge and tropical storm.

The storm is likely to bring winds of up to 160 km/h and large waves of up to 8 metres to the Magdalen Islands, as well as large waves, coastal erosion and flooding throughout Quebec's eastern shorelines, the warnings said.

Peter Kimbell, a warning preparedness meteorologist with ECCC, said the severe wind gusts could last for up to 12 hours.

"To put that in perspective, last May we had a big derecho that went across southern Ontario and in southern Quebec all the way to Quebec City, and we had 120 to 130 km/h wind for 10 minutes," he said.

He said people in the Magdalen Islands should expect extended periods of power outage and damage to infrastructure.

The weather conditions in the Magdalen Islands are expected to start improving Saturday evening, according to Jean-Philippe Bégin, a spokesperson for the Canadian Hurricane Centre.


How are government officials preparing?

Flights and ferries to the Magdalen Islands have been cancelled.

The Sûreté du Québec has dispatched extra provincial police officers. Hydro-Québec has deployed extra crews to the Magdalen Islands to help out if necessary.

The Forillon National Park near Gaspé, Que., is closing down as of noon ET. Events that were planned in the park over the weekend have all been cancelled.


Félix Caron, the acting director for the Gaspé and Magdalen Islands regional public security office, said the Quebec government is staying in touch with everyone involved.

"Operational conferences are held regularly, especially with our partners at Environment Canada, to inform all our constant partners of the evolution of the situation," he said.

Cables have been doubled to prevent communication from cutting out in the Magdalen Islands, he said.

Isabelle Larose/Radio-Canada
Isabelle Larose/Radio-Canada

Some towns have also set up their own contingency plans. The mayor of Grosse-Île in the Magdalen Islands, Diana-Joy Davies, said the municipality has been sending out alerts to warn its citizens. She said the town has learned from past storms and is well prepared for Fiona.

"We now have satellite telephones and the large generator to run the municipal building," she said.

Davies said the municipality will be able to open up its community centre if anyone needs shelter but she hopes that won't be necessary.

"Nobody wants to be out moving in hurricane winds," she said.

What should you do to prepare?

ECCC is urging people in the region to stay indoors and avoid going near the coastline and any rivers. The Canadian Hurricane Centre updates this map regularly to show the path of the storm.

Caron also recommends preparing emergency kits with extra food, water, clothing, battery-powered radios and other supplies to hold them over for at least 72 hours.

He said people should also put away lawn furniture and anything else that can be blown away.


Magdalen Islands resident Helena Burke said many people around her were gathering groceries and gas, and decluttering their backyards in preparation for the storm.

"This is an annual affair for us," she said. "We usually get the tail end of a tropical storm or a hurricane usually about this time of the year, every year."

And while she knows Fiona might be "a bit worse" than other storms that have hit the region in the past, she said locals are not too worried.

"All we can do is hunker down and wait it out."