Hurricane Fiona strengthens into Category 4 storm, heads toward Bermuda after pummeling Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands
Hurricane Fiona intensifies to Category 4 storm Wednesday after devastating damage Puerto Ricothen whipped Dominican Republic and Turks and Caicos Islands. Expected to squeeze past Bermuda later this week.
National Hurricane Center Say On Wednesday afternoon, Fiona had maximum sustained winds of 130 mph, centered about 650 miles southwest of Bermuda, heading north at 8 mph.
It is likely to approach Bermuda late Thursday and then Canada’s Atlantic provinces late Friday.The U.S. State Department issued consult U.S. citizens were told Tuesday night to “reconsider traveling to Bermuda.”
The storm was blamed for directly killing at least four people as it made its way across the Caribbean, with winds and torrential rain in Puerto Rico leaving most people on the U.S. territory without electricity or running water. Hundreds of thousands of people scraped mud from their homes after what authorities described as “historic” flooding.
Utility officials initially said it would take days to fully restore power, but then appeared to backtrack late Tuesday night. As of Wednesday afternoon, three days after Fiona landed on the island, about 70 percent of customers were without power, according to government data.
“Hurricane Fiona has severely impacted electrical infrastructure and power generation facilities across the island. We want to make it very clear that restoration and repowering efforts continue and are being affected by severe flooding, impassable roads, fallen trees, deterioration equipment and collapsed lines,” said Luma, the company that operates transmission and distribution.
“I remain hopeful that by the end of today, a significant portion of the population will have these services,” said Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi.
Storm kills one man in the French overseas territory of Guadeloupe, another washed away by floodwaters in Puerto Rico and two in the Dominican Republic: one killed by a fallen tree, another by falling of electricity poles to kill.
Puerto Rico reports two other deaths due to power outages: A 70-year-old man burned to death after trying to top up his generator while it was running; police say a 78-year-old man inhaled toxic substances from his power generation gas emitted by the machine.
The hum of generators could be heard across the territory as people grew increasingly angry.Some are still struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria, which made landfall as a Category 4 storm five years ago, killing a An estimated 2,975 people.
Luis Noguera, who is helping clear a landslide in the central mountain town of Cayey, said Maria had cost him power for a year. It wasn’t until 11 months after Maria’s attack that officials themselves announced a full resumption of services.
“We hired an electrician out of our own pocket to connect us,” he recalled, 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 380,000 of the island’s 1.47 million customers. Piped water service to most users on the island was initially eliminated due to a lack of electricity and murky water at the filtration plants, but 55 percent of them were in service Wednesday morning.
On Wednesday, the National Weather Service in San Juan issued heat warnings to several cities as most of the island’s 3.2 million people remain without electricity.
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 the island.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Tuesday he would push the federal government to cover 100 percent of the cost of disaster relief — instead of the usual 75 percent — as part of an emergency disaster declaration.
“We need to make sure this time around, Puerto Rico has absolutely everything it needs, as soon as they need it,” he said.
Many Americans have not heard from family members without electricity.
“I can’t talk to my mom to see how she’s doing,” Nancy Valentine, a resident of Palm Beach County, Florida, told CBS News.
At Boston’s Logan Airport, those from Puerto Rico recounted their fears of drowning in Fiona’s floodwaters.
Yolanda Rivera told CBS News, “We lived in a little corner room that was safe and had no light or nothing all night. The place was so dark.”
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.”