Hurricane Fiona strengthens into Category 4 storm, heads toward Bermuda

FAN Editor

Hurricane Fiona intensified into a powerful Category 4 early Wednesday as it headed in Bermuda’s direction after lashing the Turks and Caicos Islands Tuesday. Fiona was packing sustained winds of 130 mph.

It’s expected to approach Bermuda late Thursday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. The U.S. State Department issued an advisory Tuesday night telling U.S. citizens to “reconsider travel” to Bermuda.

Fiona was forecast to weaken before running into easternmost Canada over the weekend. It isn’t expected to threaten the U.S. mainland.

Early on Wednesday, Fiona was some 105 miles north of North Caicos Island and 755 miles southwest of Bermuda. It was moving north at 8 mph.  

The storm was blamed for at least four direct deaths in its march through the Caribbean, where it unleashed torrential rain in Puerto Rico, leaving vast numbers of people without power or water and many scraping mud out of their homes following what authorities described as “historic” flooding.

Power company officials initially said it would take a couple of days for electricity to be fully restored but then appeared to backtrack late Tuesday night.

Hurricane Fiona Hits Puerto Rico, Knocking Out Power Across The Island
Workers remove downed trees in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, 2022. The island had widespread power outages after Hurricane Fiona hit it hard. Jose Jimenez / Getty Images

“Hurricane Fiona has severely impacted electrical infrastructure and generation facilities throughout the island. We want to make it very clear that efforts to restore and reenergize continue and are being affected by severe flooding, impassable roads, downed trees, deteriorating equipment, and downed lines,” said Luma, the company that operates power transmission and distribution.

By late Tuesday, authorities said they had restored power to nearly 300,000 of the island’s 1.47 million customers, while water service was cut to more than 760,000 customers – two thirds of the total on the island.  

The hum of generators could be heard across the island as people became increasingly exasperated, with some still trying to recover from Hurricane Maria, which hit as a Category 4 storm five years ago, killing an estimated 2,975 people in its aftermath.

Luis Noguera, who was helping clear a landslide in the central mountain town of Cayey, said Maria left him without power for a year.

“We paid an electrician out of our own pocket to connect us,” he recalled, adding that he doesn’t think the government will be of much help again after Fiona.

Long lines were reported at several gas stations across Puerto Rico, and some pulled off a main highway to collect water from a stream.

Hurricane Fiona Hits Puerto Rico, Knocking Out Power Across The Island
People wait in line at a gas station in  Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico for fuel for generators on Sept. 20, 2022, after Hurricane Fiona left widespread power outages on the island. Jose Jimenez / Getty Images

“We thought we had a bad experience with Maria, but this was worse,” said Gerardo Rodríguez, who lives in the southern coastal town of Salinas.

Parts of the island had received more than 25 inches of rain and more had fallen on Tuesday.

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 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency on the island and deployed a couple of teams to the U.S. territory.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday he would push for the federal government to cover 100% of disaster response costs — instead of the usual 75% — as part of an emergency disaster declaration.

“We need to make sure this time, Puerto Rico has absolutely everything it needs, as soon as possible, for as long as they need it,” he said.

Why does Puerto Rico’s energy grid keep failing? 02:04

Many Americans hadn’t heard from family members who didn’t have electricity.

Palm Beach County, Florida resident Nancy Valentin told CBS News, “I haven’t been able to talk to my mom and see how she’s doing.”

At Boston’s Logan Airport, those arriving from Puerto Rico recounted their fear of drowning in Fiona’s floodwaters.

Yolanda Rivera told CBS News, “We stayed in one room in a little corner that was safe, for a whole night no light or nothing. The place was so dark.”

Hurricane Fiona slams Puerto Rico, leaving most of the island without power or clean water 05:07

In the Turks and Caicos Islands, officials reported minimal damage and no deaths despite the storm’s eye passing close to Grand Turk, the small British territory’s capital island, on Tuesday morning.

The government had imposed a curfew and urged people to flee flood-prone areas.

“Turks and Caicos had a phenomenal experience over the past 24 hours,” said Deputy Gov. Anya Williams. “It certainly came with its share of challenges.”

The storm killed a man in the French Caribbean territory of Guadeloupe, another man 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 falling electric post.

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