Fiona strengthens into Category 4 storm, heads to Bermuda

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


Hur­ri­cane Fiona strength­ened in­to a Cat­e­go­ry 4 storm Wednes­day af­ter lash­ing the Turks and Caicos Is­lands and was fore­cast to squeeze past Bermu­da lat­er this week.

The storm was blamed for caus­ing at least four di­rect deaths in its march through the Caribbean, where it un­leashed tor­ren­tial rain in Puer­to Ri­co, leav­ing a ma­jor­i­ty with­out pow­er or wa­ter as hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple scraped mud out of their homes fol­low­ing what au­thor­i­ties de­scribed as “his­toric” flood­ing.

Pow­er com­pa­ny of­fi­cials ini­tial­ly said it would take a cou­ple of days for elec­tric­i­ty to be ful­ly re­stored, but then ap­peared to back­track late Tues­day night.

“Hur­ri­cane Fiona has se­vere­ly im­pact­ed elec­tri­cal in­fra­struc­ture and gen­er­a­tion fa­cil­i­ties through­out the is­land. We want to make it very clear that ef­forts to re­store and reen­er­gize con­tin­ue and are be­ing af­fect­ed by se­vere flood­ing, im­pass­able roads, downed trees, de­te­ri­o­rat­ing equip­ment, and downed lines,” said Luma, the com­pa­ny that op­er­ates pow­er trans­mis­sion and dis­tri­b­u­tion.

The hum of gen­er­a­tors could be heard across the U.S. ter­ri­to­ry as peo­ple be­came in­creas­ing­ly ex­as­per­at­ed, with some still try­ing to re­cov­er from Hur­ri­cane Maria, which made land­fall as a Cat­e­go­ry 4 storm five years ago, killing an es­ti­mat­ed 2,975 peo­ple in its af­ter­math.

Luis Noguera, who was help­ing clear 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 of much help again af­ter Fiona.

Long lines were re­port­ed at sev­er­al gas sta­tions across Puer­to Ri­co, and some pulled off a main high­way to col­lect wa­ter from a stream.

“We thought we had a bad ex­pe­ri­ence with Maria, but this was worse,” said Ger­ar­do Ro­dríguez, who lives in the south­ern coastal town of Sali­nas.

Parts of the is­land had re­ceived more than 25 inch­es (64 cen­time­ters) of rain and more had fall­en on Tues­day.

By late Tues­day, 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 to­tal on the is­land.

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 boost lo­cal re­sponse ef­forts.

Mean­while, the U.S. De­part­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices de­clared a pub­lic health emer­gency on the is­land and de­ployed a cou­ple of teams to the is­land.

In the Turks and Caicos Is­lands, of­fi­cials re­port­ed min­i­mal dam­age and no deaths de­spite the storm’s eye pass­ing close to Grand Turk, the small British ter­ri­to­ry’s cap­i­tal is­land, on Tues­day morn­ing.

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

Turks and Caicos had a phe­nom­e­nal ex­pe­ri­ence over the past 24 hours,” said Deputy Gov. Anya Williams. “It cer­tain­ly came with its share of chal­lenges.”

Ear­ly Wednes­day morn­ing, Fiona was cen­tered about 170 miles (275 kilo­me­ters) north-north­west of Grand Turk Is­land, with hur­ri­cane-force winds ex­tend­ing up to 30 miles (45 kilo­me­ters) from the cen­ter. It had max­i­mum sus­tained winds of 130 mph (215 kph) and was mov­ing north at eight mph (13 kph), ac­cord­ing to the Na­tion­al Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter, which said the storm was like­ly to strength­en in­to a Cat­e­go­ry 4 hur­ri­cane as it ap­proach­es Bermu­da on Fri­day.

The storm killed a man in the French over­seas de­part­ment 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 the oth­er by a falling elec­tric post.


By DÁNI­CA CO­TO-As­so­ci­at­ed Press