after causingin Puerto Rico, and then hitting the Dominican Republic and the Turks and Caicos Islands, Hurricane Fiona was scheduled to pass near Bermuda on Thursday night as a Category 4 storm. Bermuda authorities were opening shelters and announced that schools and offices would be closed on Friday.
As of Thursday night, the US National Hurricane Center. said Fiona it had maximum sustained winds of 130 mph. It was centered about 195 miles southwest of Bermuda and was heading northeast at 21 mph.
Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 115 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extended outward up to 275 miles.
Fiona’s eyewest of Bermuda overnight Thursday, bringing “tropical storm conditions” to the island. It was then expected to “approach” the Atlantic Canadian province of Nova Scotia on Friday, the NHC said. It would reach the Gulf of San Lorenzo on Saturday.
“Slight weakening is forecast to begin tonight or Friday, however Fiona is forecast to be a large and powerful post-tropical cyclone with gale-force winds as it approaches and moves over Nova Scotia on Friday night and Saturday,” the NHS said.
It was expected to bring 2 to 4 inches of rain to Bermuda, and 3 to 6 inches of rain to Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and western Newfoundland, the NHC said. Eastern Quebec could see 2 to 5 inches of rain.
Bermuda Premier David Burt sent out a tweet urging residents to “take care of yourselves and your family. Let’s all remember to check in and take care of your seniors, family and neighbors. Stay safe.”
The Canadian Hurricane Center issued a hurricane watch for large coastal areas of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island.
It is expected to remain a large and dangerously powerful storm when it reaches Atlantic Canada, likely late Friday, as a post-tropical cyclone.
“It’s going to be a storm everyone will remember when it’s all said and done,” said Bob Robichaud, warning preparedness meteorologist with the Canadian Hurricane Center.
Hurricanes in Canada are somewhat rare, in part because once storms reach cooler waters, they lose their main source of energy and become extratropical. Those cyclones can still have hurricane-force winds, but now they have a cold core instead of a warm one and they don’t have a visible eye. Its shape may also be different. They lose their symmetrical shape and can look more like a comma.
So far, Fiona has been blamed for at least five deaths: two in Puerto Rico, two in the Dominican Republic and one in the French overseas department of Guadeloupe. Fiona hit the Turks and Caicos Islands on Tuesday, but authorities reported relatively light damage and no deaths.
Meanwhile, President Biden said Thursday that the full force of the federal government is ready to help Puerto Rico recover from the devastation of Hurricane Fiona.
Speaking at a briefing with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials in New York, Biden said, “We’re all in this together.”
Biden noted that hundreds of FEMA officials and other federal officials are already in Puerto Rico, where Fiona caused an island-wide blackout.
Puerto Rico’s government said about 62% of the 1.47 million customers were still without power on Thursday. A third of clients, or more than 400,000, still did not have water service. Local officials admitted they could not say when service would be fully restored.
Biden said his message to the people of Puerto Rico who are still suffering from Hurricane Maria five years ago is: “We are with you. We are not going to leave.”
“Too many homes and businesses are still without power,” Biden said in New York, adding that additional utility crews would travel to the island to help restore power in the coming days.
That seemed in contrast to former President Donald Trump, who has been widely accused of an inadequate response to Maria, which left some Puerto Ricans without power for 11 months. Maria, a Category 4 storm in 2017, killed nearly 3,000 people.
The executive director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, Josué Colón, said at a press conference that the areas least affected by Fiona should have electricity by Friday morning. But officials declined to say when power would be restored to the hardest-hit places, saying they were first working to get power to hospitals and other key infrastructure.
Neither local nor federal government officials provided an overall estimate of damage from the storm, which dropped up to 30 inches of rain in some areas.
Hundreds of people in Puerto Ricoafter the hurricane hit the US mainland, and frustration was mounting for people like Nancy Galarza, who tried to call for help from work crews she saw in the distance.
“Everyone goes there,” he said, pointing to crews at the base of the mountain who were helping others who were also cut off by the storm. “Nobody comes here to see us. I am concerned for all the elderly in this community.”
At least five landslides litter the narrow road to their community in the steep mountains around the northern city of Caguas. The only way to reach the settlement is to climb the thick mounds of mud, rocks, and debris left behind by Fiona, whose floodwaters shook the foundations of nearby houses with the force of an earthquake.
“The rocks sounded like thunder,” recalled Vanessa Flores, a 47-year-old school custodian. “I’ve never heard that in my life. It was horrible.”
At least one elderly woman who relies on oxygen was evacuated Thursday by city officials working in torrential rain to clear roads to the community of San Salvador.
Ramiro Figueroa, 63, said his 97-year-old bedridden father refused to leave the house despite the insistence of rescue teams. His path was blocked by mud, rocks, trees and his sister’s truck, which was swept down the hill during the storm.
National Guard troops and others brought water, cereal, canned peaches and two bottles of apple juice.
“That has helped me tremendously,” Figueroa said as she surveyed the devastated landscape, where a river had changed course and ripped the community apart.
At least eight of the 11 communities in Caguas are completely isolated, said Luis González, municipal recovery and reconstruction inspector. It is one of at least six municipalities where crews have yet to reach some areas. People there often rely on neighbors for help, as happened after Hurricane Maria.