Hurricane Fiona strengthens to a Category 4 as it moves away from Turks and Caicos
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Hurricane Fiona intensified into a Category 4 storm on Wednesday, hitting the Turks and Caicos Islands and is expected to squeeze past Bermuda later this week
Early Wednesday morning, Fiona’s center was about 105 miles north of North Caicos and about 755 miles southwest of Bermuda, with hurricane-strength winds extending to 45 miles from the center.
The storm had maximum sustained winds of 130 mph and was moving north at 8 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The center of the storm is expected to continue approaching Bermuda late Thursday, according to the Hurricane Center.
The center said a tropical storm watch is in effect for Bermuda and may see 1 to 3 inches of rain.
The storm has been blamed for killing at least four people directly on its journey through the Caribbean, sparking torrential rains in Puerto Rico, leaving most without electricity or water as hundreds of thousands of people scraped mud from their homes as authorities described them as “Historic” flood.
Power company officials initially said it would take several days to fully restore power, but then appeared to fall back late Tuesday night.
“Hurricane Fiona has severely impacted electrical infrastructure and power generation facilities across the island. We want to make it very clear that recovery and rejuvenation efforts continue and are affected by severe flooding, impassable roads, fallen trees, aging equipment and collapsed lines,” said Luma, the company that operates transmission and distribution.
The hum of generators can be heard across the island as people grow increasingly angry, some still struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria, which struck five years ago as a Category 4 storm, with an estimated 2,975 in its aftermath people lost their lives.
Luis Noguera, who is helping clear a landslide in the central mountain town of Cayey, said Maria had cost him power for a year.
“We hired an electrician out of our own pocket to connect us,” he recalls, adding that he didn’t think the government would do much more after Fiona.
Long queues were reported at several gas stations in Puerto Rico, with some pulling off a major highway to get water from a stream.
“We thought our experience with Maria was bad, but it was worse,” said Gerardo Rodríguez, who lives in the southern coastal town of Salinas.
Parts of the island received more than 25 inches of rain, with more rain on Tuesday.
By late Tuesday, authorities said they had restored power to nearly 300,000 of the island’s 1.47 million customers, while more than 760,000 customers had lost water service — two-thirds of the island’s total. .
The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency traveled to Puerto Rico on Tuesday, where the agency announced hundreds of additional personnel to bolster the local response.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency for the island and deployed several teams to U.S. soil.
In the Turks and Caicos Islands, officials reported minimal damage and no fatalities, although the eye of the storm passed near the small British territorial capital of Grand Turk on Tuesday morning.
The government imposed a curfew and urged people to flee flood-prone areas.
“The Turks and Caicos Islands have had an extraordinary experience over the past 24 hours,” said Lieutenant Governor Anya Williams. “It certainly comes with challenges.”
Storm kills one man in French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, another in Puerto Rico is swept away by raging river, and two men die in Dominican Republic: one killed by fallen tree, the other Killed by a falling telephone pole.