After strengthening into a Category 4 storm Wednesday, Hurricane Fiona was forecast to hit Bermuda later this week, bringing threats of hurricane-force winds and surf swells as the storm continues to intensify.
Bermuda is likely to avoid the worst of the storm’s wrath suffered by Puerto Rico, but residents face the possibility of hurricane and tropical storm conditions late Thursday into early Friday, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The forecast also includes a storm surge on the island, including elevated water levels and “large and destructive waves” near the coast, according to the NHC. The Bermudan government advised residents to prepare for the storm by checking water, medicine and food supplies and securing boats and homes.
The storm flooded Puerto Rico with 6 to 20 inches of rain earlier this week, with parts of the island without electricity or running water and under the threat of additional flooding and mudslides days later. Puerto Rico’s fragile electrical grid and continual recovery from Hurricane Maria in 2017 has compounded challenges for rescue and rebuilding efforts.
At least four people have died through the Caribbean, officials said.
President Joe Biden approved Gov. Pedro Pierluisi’s request for a major disaster declaration on Wednesday, opening up more federal assistance.
Meanwhile, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced it will send hundreds of personnel to aid local response efforts, while the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency.
Puerto Rico experienced widespread landslides, damaged homes, washed-out bridges and downed powerlines as torrential rains and flooding engulfed the island.
Power company officials initially said it would take a few days for electricity to be fully restored, but then appeared to backtrack late Tuesday night. Only 26% had power as of Wednesday morning, three days after it hit the island.
“We have suffered so much,” Rafael Joglar, 68, a biology professor based in San Juan, told USA TODAY, adding that the island has yet to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Maria five years ago.
More than half-a-million Puerto Rican residents still didn’t have water on Wednesday, and people waited for hours in lines to fill jugs from water trucks, or gathered water from mountain runoff.
Now a Category 4 storm, Hurricane Fiona was located about 605 miles southwest of the island of Bermuda on Wednesday evening with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The storm is expected to strengthen through Wednesday night and move north at 9 mph through the evening.
- BERMUDA: A hurricane watch and tropical storm watch was in effect for Bermuda on Wednesday. Fiona is expected to bring tropical storm conditions to the island late Thursday or early Friday.
- TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS: Gusty winds are expected to continue over parts of Turks and Caicos islands Wednesday morning as the storm moves toward Bermuda. With an additional 1 to 3 inches of rain expected, flooding may continue in the area.
A developing tropical system could spin up into a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico by the middle of next week, forecasters warned Wednesday.
The system, known now as Invest 98L, was located near the northeastern coast of South America on Wednesday. The majority of computer forecast models curl the system northward into the Gulf of Mexico around the middle of next week.
“This is the most significant threat for the U.S. mainland we’ve had this hurricane season,” AccuWeather chief meteorologist Jonathan Porter said.
Most computer models predict the system will be a tropical storm by the weekend in the Caribbean. The models then show the system strengthening into a hurricane by early next week. If it becomes a named storm, it would be called Hermine.
It does not appear this system will be a threat to areas in the northeastern Caribbean, including Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, all of which have been hardest hit by Hurricane Fiona.
– Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
In the Dominican Republic, at least two people died after a 68-year-old man was struck by a falling tree and an 18-year-old girl was struck by a falling electrical post. Fiona left over 400,000 homes without power, blocked highways and forced over 1,550 people into government shelters.
In the Turks and Caicos Islands, officials imposed a curfew and urged people to leave flood-prone regions as Fiona approached Tuesday. The area saw minimal damage and no reported deaths. But telecommunications on Grand Turk, the capital island of the Turks and Caicos, were severely affected, and the archipelago saw a handful of downed trees and electric posts.
Fiona is on track to make landfall in eastern Canada along the Atlantic coast, with Nova Scotia in its path this weekend, according to Environment and Climate Change Canada.
The government organization said Fiona is expected just south of Nova Scotia Friday night, passing through eastern Nova Scotia Saturday and reaching the lower North Shore of Quebec and southeastern Labrador early Sunday. Hurricane-strength winds and between about 4 and 8 inches of rainfall are possible.
Higher-than-usual water temperatures in the North Atlantic this year could mean less weakening of the storm before it hits Canada. In the past, colder waters have typically weakened hurricanes into tropical wind and rainstorms before reaching the region, according to AccuWeather.
“Fiona will bring widespread power outages due to high winds, flooding due to torrential rain and isolated storm surge and massive seas offshore and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence,” AccuWeather meteorologist Brett Anderson said.
As Hurricane Fiona bore down on Puerto Rico this week, residents of the U.S. territory in the Caribbean didn’t have to look far for reminders of the last great storm to hit the area, exactly five years ago: Blue tarps are draped over thousands of homes, structures in need of repair still dot the island and power outages remain persistent.
The deadliest natural disaster in Puerto Rico in 100 years, Hurricane Maria killed roughly 3,000 people and destroyed the electrical system. Though Fiona made landfall Category 1 storm, the damage it wrought even before it struck – including the loss of power and potable water – served as a grim reminder of why, for many of the island’s residents, Maria marked a distinct before and after in their lives. Read more here.
— Amanda Pérez Pintado, Grace Hauck and Adrianna Rodriguez, USA TODAY
Contributing: The Associated Press; Grace Hauck and Chris Kenning, USA TODAY