As Atlantic Canada braces for Hurricane Arthur, thoughts turn back to the impact of Earl in 2010
Friday, July 4, 2014, 1:12 PM - Atlantic Canada is certainly no stranger to hurricanes and tropical storms, but with the approach of Hurricane Arthur for this weekend, thoughts are turning back to four years ago, when a similar storm - Hurricane Earl - caught many Maritimers off guard.
When Hurricane Earl made landfall on September 4, 2010, it did so as a category 1 storm, blasting southeastern Nova Scotia with sustained winds of 120 kilometres per hour. Even regions over 100 kilometres away, including Halifax and Dartmouth, were hit with wind gusts that easily matched the winds in the core of the storm. By the time the storm had passed, the Maritimes were drenched with up to 76 mm of rainfall, trees and branches were down across all four provinces, and nearly a million people were left without power. In the aftermath, residents had commented about how they hadn't expected the storm to be as bad as it was.
The reason for this? The day before landfall, when Earl made its closest approach to the coastline of the U.S. Northeast, wind shear and cooler water temperatures robbed the storm of some its strength, and by evening it was downgraded to tropical storm status. Although tropical storms can certainly be quite powerful, the word 'hurricane' carries with it a much bigger psychological impact with people - especially for those in the region who lived through Hurricane Juan in 2003. The damages caused by that storm - millions of trees downed, people without power for weeks, eight deaths and a cleanup cost of more than $200 million - were so bad that it guaranteed the name's retirement. No other storm after it will bear the name Juan.
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So, with the effects of that hurricane firmly rooted in people's memories, Earl losing its status made it a little less threatening.
According to a Globe and Mail article from the time, although there were some initial worries about the storm and preparations for its arrival, as it weakened, confidence spread with people that it wasn't going to be as bad as predicted. Even the organizers of a motorcycle rally in Digby, who had decided not to cancel their event due to the storm, reportedly felt their fears subside by the night before it was expected to make landfall. Not everyone relaxed their guard, of course. One group that remained on high alert were the emergency management officials, and with good reason - Earl had one more trick up his sleeve.
As the storm turned towards Nova Scotia overnight, it moved over warmer waters and by the morning of Sept. 4, it had regained just enough of its former strength that it claimed hurricane status once more. Even worse, it maintained that strength until making landfall later in the morning. However, given the timing, if residents had gone to bed that night fairly confident that they were dealing with a storm that was in the process of blowing itself out, they could have easily missed reports of its renewed status before it struck.
For this latest storm, Arthur - which spun up into a tropical storm on Tuesday, July 1 - it strengthened to hurricane status as of Thursday morning, on approach to the North Carolina coast. Based on its forecast track, which is showing high confidence, it is expected to make landfall in southern Nova Scotia, as a weak category 1 hurricane or strong tropical storm sometime early on Saturday.
Maritimers aren't likely to be caught off guard this time around, though, especially since Arthur is taking a path that's very similar to the one that Earl took in 2010.
Preparations are already being made for the storm's arrival, with residents stocking up on supplies - food, water and batteries at the very least - and if the storm does begin to weaken before it reaches land, you can be sure it won't be written off so easy.
Current projections are estimating maximum wind gusts of up to 130 km/h across Nova Scotia, around 110 km/h through New Brunswick and PEI, and possibly around 90 km/h in Newfoundland. The highest rainfall amounts are concentrated (at the moment) around the Bay of Fundy, with some regions there possibly seeing up to 120 mm of rain from the storm, and PEI may get up to 100 mm as Arthur sweeps through. Estimates taper off through eastern Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island and western New Brunswick. Southwestern Newfoundland could see up to 70 mm.