Hurricane Fiona becomes a Category 4 storm and heads for Bermuda after hitting Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands

Hurricane Fiona intensified into a powerful Category 4 early Wednesday as it tracked towards Bermuda after hitting the Turks and Caicos Islands on Tuesday. Fiona was packing sustained winds of 130 mph.

It is expected to approach Bermuda Thursday evening, the US National Hurricane Center said. The US State Department issued an advisory late Tuesday asking US citizens to “reconsider travel” to Bermuda.

Fiona was expected to weaken before colliding in far eastern Canada over the weekend. It is not expected to threaten the American continent.

The storm has been blamed for at least four direct deaths in its march through the Caribbean, where it set off torrential rain in Puerto Ricoleaving large numbers of people without power and water and many scraping mud from their homes following what authorities described as “historic” flooding.

Power company officials initially said it would take a few days for power to be fully restored, but then appeared to backtrack late on Tuesday evening.

Hurricane Fiona hits Puerto Rico, knocking out power across the island
Workers remove downed trees in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico, September 20, 2022. The island experienced widespread power outages after Hurricane Fiona hit it hard.

Jose Jimenez/Getty Images

“Hurricane Fiona has severely impacted power infrastructure and generation facilities across the island. We want to make it abundantly clear that restoration and revitalization efforts continue and are impacted by severe flooding, roads impassable, downed trees, deteriorating equipment and downed lines,” said Luma, the company that operates power transmission and distribution.

On Tuesday evening, 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 island total.

The hum of generators could be heard across the island as people grew 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 clean up 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 much help again after Fiona.

Long lines were reported at several gas stations in Puerto Rico, and some left a major highway to collect water from a creek.

Hurricane Fiona hits Puerto Rico, knocking out power across the island
People line up at a gas station in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico, to get fuel for generators on September 20, 2022, after Hurricane Fiona caused widespread power outages on the island.

Jose Jimenez/Getty Images

“We thought we had a bad experience with Maria, but it 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 others fell on Tuesday.

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

The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency visited Puerto Rico on Tuesday as the agency announced it was sending hundreds more people to bolster local response efforts.

Meanwhile, the US Department of Health and Human Services has declared a public health emergency on the island and has deployed a few teams to US territory.

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

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

Many Americans had not heard from family members who had no power.

Nancy Valentin, a resident of Palm Beach County, Florida, 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 told of their fear of drowning in Fiona’s floodwaters.

Yolanda Rivera told CBS News, “We stayed in a room in a safe little corner for a whole night with no lights or anything. The place was so dark.”

In the Turks and Caicos Islands, authorities reported minimal damage and no fatalities despite the eye of the storm passing near Grand Turk, the island’s capital of the small British territory, on Tuesday morning.

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

“Turks and Caicos has had a phenomenal experience over the past 24 hours,” Vice Governor Anya Williams said. “He certainly came with his 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 flooded river and two people in the Dominican Republic: one killed by a falling tree and the other by the fall of an electric pole.

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