By Graeme Benjamin
Hurricane Dorian has been upgraded to a category 2 storm with winds of 160km/hr, causing thousands in Nova Scotia to lose power.
Many communities within the Halifax Regional Municipality are currently affected by the outages, with Nova Scotia Power attributing the cause to high winds, rain and damaged power lines.
As of 2:00 p.m. AT Saturday, over 68,000 Nova Scotia Power customers were off the grid.
The Canadian Hurricane Centre in Halifax says hurricane warnings remain in effect for much of mainland Nova Scotia and Cape Breton.
Tropical storm warnings have also been issued for P.E.I., southeastern New Brunswick and western Newfoundland.
But officials say the high-risk zones include the Sambro area, Peggys Cove and along the province’s Eastern Shore, which extends east of Halifax.
“We are looking at closing the roads to Peggy’s Cove and Lawrencetown,” said Erica Fleck, assistant chief with Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency
The latest forecasts predict high winds, considerable rainfall, and significant storm surges. Waves are expected to reach heights of 15 metres, which could create dangerous conditions for residents living near the water.
As a result, the Halifax Regional Municipality is urging residents living along the shoreline of the municipality to consider other accommodations until Hurricane Dorian exits the region.
Dorian is expected to make landfall as a Category 2 hurricane before moving into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where it is expected to transform into a strong post-tropical storm.
According to HRM, the forecasted track of the hurricane indicates the eye will be over the Halifax region between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., creating a particularly significant wind event over the entire municipality.
HRM said in a media release that those responsible for construction sites and other outdoor work spaces where significant debris may be present are urged to ensure their sites are clear of loose debris that could create a public safety concern.
In addition, the largest threat to homes and property is flying debris. HRM is asking residents to move umbrellas and patio furniture inside and remove anything that high winds could pick up, such as garbage containers/bags, flower pots, and toys.
Fleck said it is critical for citizens to call 311 to report on falling trees or flying debris.
“We still have crews on the road to clear trees as soon as possible and we want to get those out of the way for the safety of our citizens and the safety of our crews that are on the road,” she said.
“We’re very concerned about the safety of our citizens about debris flying which it will, with [winds expected to hit] between 140 and 150 km/hr. And again we want people to stay inside.”
Employers are also being urged to close early before 5 p.m. to allow employees enough time to return home before weather conditions worsens.
In preparation of the Dorian’s arrival, several services have been cancelled, including Halifax Transit.
According to HRM, the Red Cross will be opening three evacuation shelters at noon on Saturday to accommodate residents who are unable to find other accommodations, especially those in high-risk zones.
The shelters will be located at the Dartmouth East Community Centre, Canada Games Centre, and St. Margarets Centre.
“We are prepared for 60 people in each location,” said Ancel Langille, senior manager of emergency management programs at Atlantic Region Canadian Red Cross.
Residents are being warned to prepare for extended power outages, and flooding – which means stocking up on food, water and gasoline. Long lineups were reported Friday at Halifax-area gas stations and grocery stores.
Several flights have been either delayed or cancelled as a result of the storm. The Halifax Stanfield International Airport is urging travellers to check their flights before departing.
The MacKay and Macdonald bridges are closed.
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Ralph Goodale, said in a tweet that Nova Scotia has requested help from the feds with hurricane Dorian, and now the Canadian Armed Forces are mobilizing to deploy to assist with recovery.