Amelia Smith heard many stories about Hurricane Hazel growing up in Toronto.
Recognized as one of the worst storms in the city’s history, Hazel swept through the area in 1954, flooding roads, bridges and neighborhoods and killing 81 people.
“You hear about it, but it’s almost more of a myth. He’s a legend,” said Smith, who moved from Toronto to Antigonish, Nova Scotia just a month ago.
“But going through it now, going through this…it really brings it into a whole new light.”
All those stories about Hazel’s devastation are suddenly on Smith’s mind as she prepares for Hurricane Fiona – which is expected to develop into a huge post-tropical storm that will bring hurricane-force winds, heavy rain and large waves to Atlantic Canada early Saturday, after lashing Bermuda with heavy rain and winds, and beat Puerto Rico with heavy flooding.
Hurricanes in Canada are quite rare, in part because they weaken considerably when 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 Center says Fiona is larger than Juan and stronger than Dorian, and calls it a “historic, extreme” event for Atlantic Canada.
“It’s really nerve-wracking,” Smith says, adding that she’s packed three days’ worth of food and water, and has a flashlight and batteries in case her power goes out.
“There’s only so much you can prepare for, and so you wait and wait for it to come.”
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Marquis Murray can understand. He moved with his wife and two children from Cobourg, Ontario to Halifax just two months ago. So he had to quickly learn the art of preparing for storms. This includes tying up canoes and protecting solar panels and woodpiles on his off-grid property, communicating with neighbors about best practices and even sharing his routine online.
“It’s just about keeping people informed of what’s going on,” Murray says.
Having recently moved from Ontario to Nova Scotia, he says he thought of documenting their hurricane preparation as a way to let friends and family know what’s going on.
The Canadian Hurricane Center has issued a hurricane watch for large stretches of coastline in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland. Nova Scotia authorities have sent out an emergency alert warning of Fiona’s arrival and urging people to say indoors, avoid shorelines, 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 give advice, lend a hand when they can, and most of all like to give encouragement,” he says.
“It really supported me.”
While Smith worries about the storm’s arrival, this isn’t the first time she’s been caught in extreme weather conditions. Last year, she watched from Victoria as a “once in a century” storm brought flooding, landslides and gas rations to southern British Columbia.
“The climate just keeps getting worse. We’re going to have to expect that more and more.”