September 19, 2010 — Hurricane Igor is about to slam into Bermuda, but how bad could this storm get for Newfoundland?
Chris Scott, meteorologist
Hurricane Igor is set to make a direct hit on Bermuda Sunday. Regardless of whether the centre of the storm passes directly over the islands, Bermuda will see hurricane force sustained winds. It seems likely that at least a part of the eye wall will pass over land which will cause significant damage from the high-end category 2 winds.
There is a chance Igor could restrengthen to a category 3 storm before it passes Bermuda, but whatever the case, this will likely cause similar damage to Hurricane Fabian in 2003. Bermuda will get through this, but it will be a very rough 24-36 hours and some weeks of clean-up.
I visited Bermuda in 2002 – it is a great place with wonderful people. A direct hit from Igor will do a lot of damage, but for those with relatives on the island, you should feel confident that the experience of Fabian means Bermudians are well prepared for what’s about to happen. These type of winds can do some structural damage, but most well-built homes can weather a category 2/3 storm without losing the roof. The main problem is that there will be trees down everywhere, power out, and possibly some storm surge damage – hopefully the causeway between Bermuda and St. David’s will get through the storm this time.
As for Newfoundland – this is a tough forecast, but there is the potential for Igor to bring flooding rain and damaging wind on Tuesday. But, this is not locked in stone just yet. The computer models have been back and forth on the exact track of the storm later Monday into Tuesday. The question is how much Igor will merge (or ‘phase’ as we say in meteorology) with a jet stream disturbance and associated cold front dropping through Atlantic Canada on Monday.
It’s important in this case not to get mislead by this track forecast – just because the centre of this storm is likely to pass east of Newfoundland, doesn’t mean that we’re off the hook. In fact, if Igor does merge with the jet stream dip across Atlantic Canada, this storm will actually get bigger! It may not have the category 2 winds Tuesday, but there could be a large area of hurricane force winds, even on the west side of the storm.
Bottom line here is that there is the potential for a major storm for Newfoundland.
Heavy rain developing later Monday into Tuesday may total well over 100 mm, with some computer models suggesting up to 200 mm for central and eastern Newfoundland. This would certainly cause flooding with the possibility of road washouts.
How strong could the winds be? Well, if the worst case materializes, we’re looking at winds that could gust in the 120-150 km/h range from the Bonavista to the Avalon peninsulas. While Newfoundland is no stranger to nor’easters that can have this type of wind; winds this strong in September will do significant damage. St. John’s does not have the same density of deciduous trees as Halifax, but there are enough trees with leaves still on to cause problems if winds do get to these levels.
The details will come into focus more so on Sunday, but this does have the potential to be an absolutely wild Tuesday anywhere from the Exploits Valley down to Cape Race. While rain will build into to parts of the island on Monday, Tuesday is the day to get ready for.
Newfoundland is tied to the sea, and this is a storm that, whatever the exact outcome, will be worst over the water. This has to be a serious concern for anyone in the marine sector and the offshore oil and gas industry. I’ll update you on the latest thinking as we start to pin down the details on Sunday.