Walking the storm: Breaking down Fiona and Ian
Emily Kirsch, Contributor
Many Canadians are assessing the damage caused by the tropical storm Fiona, which swept across Eastern Canada over the weekend. Meanwhile, category one hurricane Ian slammed into Florida and Carolina as survivors struggle to keep their homes and belongings safe. While the storms rage across our neighbours’ homes and lives, Albertans may feel helpless or even disconnected from the events but that doesn’t mean we should forget about them.
Hurricane Fiona was denounced as a post-tropical cyclone late Sept. 23. However, meteorologists warned that it still had the potential to be one of the worst storms in history, bringing hurricane-force winds, heavy rain and large waves to the Atlantic Canada region.
Fiona first formed on Sept. 15 and battered parts of the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Guatemala–causing at least four deaths before continuing its way north.
At the time of writing, over a week after the initial impact, storm Fiona left Canada’s Atlantic coastlines with damages of up to $700 million in insured losses. The storm’s force knocked down trees and powerlines; flooding swept away houses, and several areas were still left with no power.
After hearing the news about storm Fiona passing through Eastern Canada, I reached out to my brother Wyatt Kirsch, who is studying in Halifax, Nova Scotia, residing just outside the bigger impact zones. In a text conversation he told me “the storm happened mostly overnight in my area. I woke up to heavy winds and a downpour of rain. Since the power was out, I couldn’t tell how much it was raining—too dark to see, too windy to hear.”
Since coastal flooding damage is mostly uninsured, homeowners and government disaster financial assistance programs will likely be responsible for most recovery expenditures. For people who want to support the relief effort, the Canadian Red Cross is one of the organizations who are currently accepting donations.
Hurricane Fiona isn’t the only storm raging its way through the Atlantic right now. Hurricane Ian had residents of Florida preparing for a storm that had intensified into a category four hurricane.
A CNN report revealed that hurricane Ian currently shares the record with 2004’s hurricane Charley as the strongest hurricanes to hit the west coast of Florida. Ian will rank among the top five storms to have impacted the Florida peninsula, behind hurricanes Andrew (1992) and Michael (2018)—according to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
As a result of an exceptionally high storm surge and heavy rainfall, Ian left southwest Florida in a devastating state of ruin. Hurricane Ian fostered wind gusts that shattered windows and ripped metal roofs off homes and buildings. Roads into the hurricane-affected areas remained impassable, obstructed by downed trees and power lines.
Hurricane Ian is the ninth named storm, fourth hurricane and second major hurricane of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season, which spans June 1 through to Nov. 30.
At the time of writing, 12 people have been killed and two million people are without power. Hurricane Ian, which has been downgraded to a tropical storm, is currently smashing into North and South Carolina.
Each year, the links between hurricanes and climate change have become more apparent. A warmer world may see more significant hurricanes and more of the most severe storms over time. An article from the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions says that scientists are now unsure whether the frequency of storms will alter, but they are convinced that hurricane strength and severity will keep rising.
Here in Alberta, it’s easier to simply share a social media post on Instagram and forget the plight of those in the path of these storms. After all, we’re landlocked. If a hurricane ever found its way here, we’d probably have other issues to worry about.
In addition to causing damage to buildings, hurricanes often undermine transportation, energy, water and sewer systems, as well as structures for managing flooding—all systems in which we heavily rely on to maintain public health and the quality of human lives.
Living in a non-coastal province, it’s hard to imagine what it would be like to experience a natural disaster like storm Fiona or hurricane Ian, but these are not things we should ignore. The reality of the Earth’s climate crisis is already critical, and is getting more urgent every day. It’s not a matter of if the next big disaster will strike, it’s a matter of when, and we need to start taking action sooner rather than later.