How does Dorian compare to 2003’s Hurricane Juan?

Hurricane Dorian blew through the Maritimes this weekend bringing heavy rain, pounding surf, storm surge and severe winds that knocked out power to more than half a million homes and businesses by Saturday evening.

So how does Dorian compare to 2003’s Hurricane Juan, arguably the most infamous storm to have ever hit Nova Scotia? 

Dorian was officially a post-tropical storm at landfall. Post-tropical does not mean weaker, however, as Dorian was still estimated to have had Category 2 hurricane-strength sustained winds of 155 km/h on its southside. Thankfully, those winds remained offshore.

Similarly, Juan made landfall with satellite-estimated sustained winds of 160 km/h as a Category 2 hurricane.

But for two storms with similar landfall locations and stats, their impacts were very different across the region.

Juan

Hurricane Juan came in like a freight train on a very unique track. Moving from south to north, Juan’s path put the Halifax region directly in the crosshairs of its most severe winds, just to the right of the storm track.

Juan’s top winds were recorded at McNabs Island with a two-minute sustained wind of 151 km/h and gusts to 176 km/h. At nearby Shearwater, winds were clocked at 130 km/h and even further inland, gusts topped 142 km/h at Halifax airport.

With those wicked winds, Hurricane Juan brought massive amounts of damage to the Halifax region. Millions of trees were downed or damaged and infrastructure in the region took a major hit, especially along Halifax harbour.

The municipality estimated that 31 per cent of residential homes were damaged. Juan is the most damaging storm in modern Halifax history and was the worst to hit the city since 1893.

Hurricane Juan made landfall just west of Halifax as a Category 2 hurricane. (Ryan Snoddon/CBC)

While Halifax was ground zero, it certainly wasn’t the only region hurt by Juan.

The storm downed trees, power lines and caused damage all across central Nova Scotia before doing the same to P.E.I. Power outages were in the hundreds of thousands and lasted for nearly two weeks.

Dorian

Perhaps the biggest difference between Juan and Dorian was that Dorian was a larger storm overall. And when a storm transitions to post-tropical, its wind field actually spreads out from the centre to become even wider.

With a track from southwest to northeast through the centre of the Maritimes, it ensured that the rain and wind impacts were more far reaching than with Juan.

Hurricane Dorian brought more widespread damage than Juan. (Ryan Snoddon/CBC)

The track, the post-tropical transition and the spreading out of winds from the centre of the storm, as well as an arrival time at low tide, certainly saved Halifax from a more severe blow this time around. The strongest wind gusts were found east of the city at Osbourne Head and Beaver Island. 

The winds weren’t as severe for Halifax, and Hurricane Juan’s “pruning” of the city’s oldest and most vulnerable trees just 16 years ago also likely saved the municipality from greater Dorian destruction.

Severe damage to RVs and motor homes at Crystal Beach Park in P.E.I. due to Dorian. (Mackayla Morrison/Facebook)

But while this storm wasn’t as damaging for Halifax, many other parts of the region will likely remember it more than Juan.

From the flooded campground in Crystal Beach, P.E.I., to the yacht club destruction in Shediac, N.B., to localized damage stretching from the Acadian Peninsula to Yarmouth to Cape Breton and many points in between, it’s a good reminder that every storm is unique and the impacts will always vary.

The tracks of some of the most of damaging tropical storms, hurricanes and post-tropical storms to hit Nova Scotia. (Ryan Snoddon/CBC)

It will be months before we have a better sense of the economic impact Dorian had on the Maritimes and whether it will even come close to Juan’s price tag.

One thing is certain however, Dorian will go down as one of the biggest storms to hit Nova Scotia and the Maritimes.

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