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Examples of Extreme Weather Events

Hurricane Juan (September 29, 2003)

Hurricane Juan: The greatest emergency response effort in Nova Scotia
since the 1917 Halifax Explosion (Canadian Hurricane Centre/JEOC)

Hurricane Juan, a Category 2 hurricane, made landfall in Nova Scotia between Peggy’s Cove and Prospect Point at 00:10h on Monday September 29, 2003.

At its landfall, winds exceeded 150 km/h with gusts up to 180 km/h. As it moved northward across the province, the eastern eyewall of the hurricane passed directly over Halifax Harbour. The storm is considered to be the worst in over 100 years for HRM . During and after the hurricane, the Joint Emergency Operations Centre (JEOC) group - in coordination with the HRM EOC - mounted the greatest emergency response effort in Nova Scotia since the Halifax Explosion of 1917.

Juan’s Impact on People & Property

Damage from the hurricane in HRM was extensive. There was widespread damage to huge tracks of forests stands, with an estimated 100 million trees destroyed (1 million in HRM). Mature shallow rooted trees were uprooted by the hurricane, blocking roads and resulting in the loss of essential aboveground utilities, and extensive property damage to thousands of homes. Much of this damage was in peninsular Halifax where many of HRM’s key healthcare facilities are located. Within two weeks after the storm, the Nova Scotia government estimated the costs from Hurricane Juan to be over $100 million in direct damage.

The storm claimed five lives - two were hit by falling trees and three died in a house fire resulting from a burning candle. HRM schools were closed for one week.

The hurricane dealt a crippling blow to Nova Scotia Power’s transmission and distribution systems. As one company official put it, the hurricane tracked along the “backbone” of Nova Scotia Power Incorporated (NSPI) transmission system, from Halifax to Truro. In all, Juan interrupted service to 70 per cent of the utility’s customers. The hurricane damaged 27 main transmission lines, several transmission towers, 117 distribution feeders, and 31 major electrical substations.

Across the province, over 300,000 residents, the majority of which were in HRM, were without power for periods of time ranging from two days to two weeks. The average power outage lasted 80 hours; 31% had home damage; 5% had automobile damage; 82% suffered tree damage on property; and 27% suffered enough losses to warrant an insurance claim. Residents in areas of HRM who were not reliant on municipal water supplies were without water.

In addition to Hurricane Juan, Hurricane Isabel preceded Hurricane Juan by a mere week but fortunately did not make landfall. Furthermore, within the two to three weeks following Hurricane Juan, the Halifax area received two strong wind events that required wind warnings to be issued. This resulted in some secondary damage to public, commercial, and residential infrastructure. Ecosystems already weakened by Hurricane Juan were further damaged.

Hurricane Juan left the entire health care system, in affected areas, with a backlog of hundreds of surgeries and clinic appointments. Public Health Services closely monitored food and water safety, and was prepared to deal with the spread of communicable diseases in the wake of the storm.