Hurricane Fiona was already a killer storm when it landed in Atlantic Canada late September 23, after claiming several lives in the Caribbean. Now, Fiona’s death toll in Atlantic Canada is three and counting.
Canada’s CBC News reported that Fiona’s total insurance bill in Atlantic Canada could exceed $500 million (C$700 million) and that much of the damage is not covered by insurance policies. insurance, which do not provide for storm surges.
A week later, the cleanup of what has been described as the strongest storm to ever hit Canada drags on. Countless homes are still without power and debris is strewn across the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia’s capital.
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“My message would be to people who have done well, which is to help those who haven’t,” Halifax Mayor Mike Savage told VOA. “It was a strong storm and the unfortunate thing is that we are going to have more of them and we will have to be as ready as possible for them.
“We’re in pretty good shape overall. We moved hundreds of trees off public property. We didn’t have houses washed away like other communities.
Fallen tree debris is a common sight throughout the city, the largest in Atlantic Canada and a regional hub for government and commerce.
Savage said he learned a lot watching from the Halifax Emergency Operations Center as the storm passed, including the importance of response personnel taking notes that can be checked later.
“At the emergency operations center, don’t throw anything away. Every note you make, see what kind of stuff was happening in real time, see if we can improve it,” he said.
This reporter personally lost all of his belongings when water began to leak in his basement apartment after sump pump batteries ran out during a week-long power outage. He was told on Wednesday he had an hour to collect all the sentimental items from his apartment before it was left indefinitely flooded.
Much of the province was blindsided by the widespread power outages that erupted as the outer edges of the storm reached Nova Scotia, prompting a flurry of chilling posts on Twitter. For most, the sense of foreboding was greater than during Hurricane Dorian, the last major storm to rock Atlantic Canada in 2019.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Scott Ellis, who works in the nonprofit industry and ran in the 2021 provincial election for the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia. “The wind and storm surge that happened was unbelievable. They told us it might be historic, but with these things you always hope they’re wrong.
“Our region does not have infrastructure built for these types of storms and obviously the destruction is quite evident. While the damage is widespread and saddening, Atlantic Canadians are coming together to support their communities in the recovery.
Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood, an expert at the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives, said scientists had been warning for decades that climate change would lead to more frequent and extreme weather events.
“The terrible destruction left by Fiona points to a big oversight in Canadian climate policy, which is adapting to the effects of climate change,” he said in an interview.
“Even if we were to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to zero overnight, we will still suffer the effects of all our previously accumulated emissions. A certain amount of global warming is already blocked. So we need to prepare our infrastructure for more storms like this in the future, even as we do everything we can to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in the present,” Mertins-Kirkwood said.