Hurricane Fiona strengthened to a powerful Category 4 early Wednesday as it headed toward Bermuda after battering the Turks and Caicos Islands on Tuesday. Fiona carried sustained winds of 130 mph.
It is expected to approach Bermuda late Thursday, the US National Hurricane Center said. US State Department issued an advisory On Tuesday night, he is telling American citizens to “reconsider traveling” to Bermuda.
Fiona was forecast to weaken before slamming into easternmost Canada over the weekend. It is not expected to threaten the US mainland.
Early Wednesday, Fiona was about 105 miles north of North Caicos 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 spawnedleaving huge numbers of people without power and water, and many dragging mud out of their homes after what authorities described as “historic” flooding.
Utility officials initially said it would take several days to fully restore power, but they appeared to back off late Tuesday night.
“Hurricane Fiona has severely impacted electrical infrastructure and manufacturing facilities across the island. We want to make it clear that recovery and power restoration efforts are continuing and have been affected by severe flooding, impassable roads, downed trees, broken equipment and downed power lines, “, said Luma, a company that manages the transmission and distribution of electricity.
By late Tuesday, authorities said they had restored power to nearly 300,000 of the island’s 1.47 million customers, while water service had been cut to more than 760,000 customers – two-thirds of the island’s total.
The hum of generators could be heard across the island as people grew increasingly bitter, some still trying to recover fromfive years ago, after which around 2,975 people were killed.
Luis Noguera, who was helping clean up landslides 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 hook us up,” he recalled, adding that he didn’t think the government would be much help after Fiona.
Long lines were reported at several gas stations across Puerto Rico, with some turning off the main highway to collect water from creeks.
“We thought we had a bad experience with Maria, but this was worse,” said Gerardo Rodríguez, who lives in the southern coastal city of Salinas.
Parts of the island received more than 25 inches of rain, with more falling 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 bolster local response efforts.
Meanwhile, the US Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency on the island and deployed several teams to the US territory.
US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday that he would push for the federal government to cover 100% of disaster response costs — instead of the usual 75% — as part of a disaster emergency declaration.
“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 have not heard from family members who did not have electricity.
Palm Beach County, Fla. 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 shared their fears of drowning in Fiona’s flood waters.
Yolanda Rivera told CBS News, “We were in one room in a little corner that was safe, all night with no lights or nothing. The place was so dark.”
In the Turks and Caicos Islands, officials reported minimal damage and no deaths despite the storm passing close to Grand Turk, the small British territory’s main island, on Tuesday morning.
The government imposed a curfew and urged people to leave flood-prone areas.
“Turks and Caicos has had a phenomenal experience over the past 24 hours,” said Deputy Governor 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 another by a downed power pole.