Hurricane Fiona strengthens into Category 4 storm, heads toward Bermuda after pummeling Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands
Hurricane Fiona strengthened to a Category 4 storm on Wednesday after making landfall Puerto RicoThen the flogging Dominican Republic And Turks and Caicos Islands. It was forecast to cross Bermuda later this week.
US National Hurricane Center said Fiona had maximum sustained winds of 130 mph Wednesday afternoon and was centered about 650 miles southwest of Bermuda, moving north at 8 mph.
It was expected to approach Bermuda late Thursday and then Canada’s Atlantic provinces late Friday. The US State Department issued a advice Tuesday night asked US citizens to “reconsider travel” to Bermuda.
The storm has been directly blamed for at least four deaths in its march through the Caribbean islands, while winds and heavy rains in Puerto Rico have left most of the US mainland without power or running water. Hundreds of thousands of people were thrown from their homes after what authorities described as “historic” flooding.
Power company officials initially said it would take several days to fully restore power, but then appeared to be delayed late Tuesday night. As of Wednesday afternoon, three days after Fiona hit the island, about 70% of customers were without power, according to government figures.
“Hurricane Fiona has severely impacted electrical infrastructure and generation facilities across the island. We want to make it very clear that recovery and revitalization efforts continue and are being impacted by severe flooding, impassable roads, uprooted trees, damaged equipment and downed lines.” Luma said company that operates power transmission and distribution.
“I hope that by the end of today, a large portion of the population will have access to these services,” Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi said.
The storm killed one person in the French overseas territory of Guadeloupe, another in Puerto Rico who was swept away by a swollen river, and two people in the Dominican Republic: one killed by a falling tree and the other by a power pole.
Two other deaths were reported in Puerto Rico as a result of the blackout: a 70-year-old man died in a fire after trying to fill his generator with gasoline while it was running, and a 78-year-old man police said inhaled toxic gas released from his generator.
The sound of generators could be heard throughout the area as people grew increasingly agitated. Some were still trying to recover from Hurricane Maria, which made landfall five years ago as a Category 4 storm, killing one person. Approximately 2,975 people.
Luis Nogueira, who was helping clear a landslide in the central mountain town of Caye, said Maria left him without electricity for a year. Officials themselves did not announce the full resumption of service until 11 months after Maria’s injuries.
“We paid an electrician out of our own pocket to connect us,” he recalls, adding that he doesn’t think the government will help much again after Fiona.
Long lines were reported at several gas stations across Puerto Rico, and some closed a major highway to collect water from a stream.
“We thought we had a bad experience with Maria, but it was worse,” said Gerardo Rodriguez, who lives in the southern coastal city of Salinas.
Some parts of the island received more than 25 inches of rain and more on Tuesday.
By late Tuesday, authorities said they had restored power to about 380,000 of the island’s 1.47 million customers. Piped water service was initially knocked out for most users on the island due to a lack of power at the filtration plant and dirty water, but 55% service was on Wednesday morning.
On Wednesday, the National Weather Service in San Juan issued a heat advisory for several cities as most of the island’s 3.2 million people remained without power.
The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency traveled to Puerto Rico on Tuesday as the agency announced it was sending hundreds of additional personnel to boost local response efforts.
Meanwhile, the US Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency on the island and deployed several teams to the island.
US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday he would push the federal government to cover 100% of disaster response costs — instead of the usual 75% — as part of the emergency disaster declaration.
“We need to make sure this time, Puerto Rico has everything it needs, as soon as possible, for as long as they need it,” he said.
Many Americans have never heard from family members who don’t have electricity.
“I haven’t been able to talk to my mom and see how she’s doing,” Palm Beach County, Florida resident Nancy Valentine told CBS News.
At Boston’s Logan Airport, those arriving from Puerto Rico described their fear of drowning in Fiona’s floodwaters.
Yolanda Rivera told CBS News, “We were in a room in a little corner that was safe, with no lights or anything all night long. The place was very dark.”
In the Turks and Caicos Islands, officials reported minimal damage and no deaths despite the eye of the storm moving closer to Grand Turk, the capital island of the tiny British territory, on Tuesday morning.
The government has imposed a curfew and urged people to flee flood-prone areas.
“Turks and Caicos has had an extraordinary experience over the last 24 hours,” said Deputy Governor Anya Williams. “It certainly brought its share of challenges.”