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As many Atlantic Canadians are still recovering from a summer of extreme wildfires and floods, the region is preparing for a “busy” hurricane season and is urging residents to take preparation seriously.

Although hurricane season in the area stretches from June through November, the most serious storms in Atlantic Canada typically occur in late August and September. Hurricane Fiona, which struck the Maritimes as a tropical storm in September 2022, was the costliest extreme weather event ever recorded in the region.

The Atlantic storm season at large is already underway: Tropical storm Franklin made landfall in the Dominican Republic on Wednesday and has caused one death in the country. There are concerns the storm, which is expected to reach hurricane status over the weekend, will hit Atlantic Canada, but meteorologists are still unsure about its path.

Bob Robichaud, an Environment and Climate Change Canada meteorologist, said Franklin will enter Canada’s “response zone” early next week. According to The Weather Network, the storm will take a “zig-zagging” path over the western Atlantic and eventually be pushed northeast, most likely away from the East Coast of the United States.

“That right-hand turn is going to be very critical in determining if the storm tracks closer to the Maritimes,” said Robichaud.

“If the turn is a lot sharper, it might keep the centre of the storm offshore. So right now, we can't really determine how sharp that turn is going to be. That's what we're watching over the next few days as to how that's gonna play out,” he added.

Robichaud said current models show Franklin staying south of the region, with potential landfall in Newfoundland, but stressed “anything is on the table.” However, he said it is unlikely the region will face another “Fiona-type scenario.”

In May, the National Atmospheric and Ocean Administration (NOAA) predicted a “near normal” hurricane season for the Atlantic region. Since then, numbers have increased, and the most recent prediction is four to 21 named storms, six to 10 hurricanes, two to five major hurricanes, and overall, an “above normal” season, attributed to “record warm Atlantic sea-surface temperatures.” Named storms are marked by winds of 39 mph or higher, while hurricanes have winds of 74 mph or higher.

As many Atlantic Canadians are still recovering from a summer of extreme wildfires and floods, the region is preparing for a “busy” hurricane season and is urging residents to take preparation seriously.

“It doesn't necessarily mean that a lot of those storms will approach Atlantic Canada or have any kind of impact on Nova Scotia,” said Robichaud.

“But we all always have to be ready for [those] one or two storms that might actually impact us. And we saw that last year — Fiona was a perfect example.”

Lessons learned

At a press conference on Thursday, Nova Scotia’s Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister John Lohr joined Robichaud to announce a public awareness campaign on preparing for hurricane season that will include online, radio and print ads over the next month.

He urged residents to prepare by keeping emergency kits stocked, securing loose items around the home and checking home insurance policies for coverage details. Depending on where people live, insurance plans may not cover floods from storms, especially floods from storm surges during hurricanes or other weather events.

Also present was Nova Scotia Power, the province’s privately owned utility company. During Fiona, a record 405,000 customers were without power, and the average restoration time was 100 hours. Some waited more than two weeks to get their power back.

The lengthy power outages prompted customer criticism about reliability. The utility was slapped with a $750,000 fine this year for not meeting reliability standards, which include rules around restoring power after extreme weather events.

According to Matt Drover, senior director of energy delivery at Nova Scotia Power, the utility had a debrief following Fiona where they documented “everything that worked well and everything that we can do better going forward.” He said they have done ample work to make the system more resilient, especially in places hit hardest by Fiona. The utility has spent $180 million this year on those efforts.

“We've been installing higher-class poles … to be more resilient when we do have the high winds and really making sure that all of the equipment that we have is as durable as possible,” he said.

“That will not eliminate outages. There will still be outages that occur from (fallen) trees, but we're doing everything we can to reduce those.”

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