Hurricane Fiona reaches Category 4 as it moves north, slowing recovery in affected areas

Water is a top concern for residents like Carlos Vega, whose town of Cayey in the mountains of east-central Puerto Rico faced not only utility outages, but also partially collapsed roads — the effects of massive flooding and more than 2 feet of rain. Parts of Puerto Rico were hit.

“(Without) electricity … We can face this problem, we can deal with this problem. The biggest problem is our water. We can’t live without water,” Vega told CNN on Tuesday.

Fiona also swept parts of the Turks and Caicos Islands with sustained winds of nearly 125 mph on Tuesday, officials said. The islands’ lieutenant governor, Anya Williams, said this caused power outages in many areas, including Grand Turk, South Caicos, Salt Cay, North Caicos and Middle Caicos.

A fallen palm tree at the entrance to the Harbour Resort on Providenciales, Turks and Caicos.

As of Tuesday evening, there were no reports of deaths or serious injuries in the Turks and Caicos Islands, Williams said.

Fiona’s flooding caused severe infrastructure damage especially in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, where the storm crossed on Monday. As of Wednesday morning, more than 1 million utility customers in the Dominican Republic were without water service and more than 349,000 customers were without power, according to the major. General Juan Méndez García, director of the country’s emergency operations center.

The power outage comes as parts of the Caribbean face suffocating heat. The National Weather Service said Wednesday’s heat index — what the air feels when combined with temperature and humidity — is expected to be 105 to 109 degrees in north-central, northwestern and western Puerto Rico.

Sunday’s landfall in Puerto Rico comes nearly five years after Hurricane Maria devastated the island, killing thousands and cutting power and water service to more than a million people for months.

Storm approaches north, potentially threatening Bermuda and Atlantic Canada

Fiona intensified to a Category 4 — sustained winds of at least 130 mph — over the Atlantic Ocean early Wednesday after passing the Turks and Caicos Islands as a Category 3 storm at its center.
About 615 miles southwest of Bermuda, it was moving north with sustained winds of 130 mph around 5 p.m. ET Wednesday, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said.
Forecasters said Fiona is expected to approach Bermuda later on Thursday, possibly still a Category 4 storm.

“Fiona is expected to become a hurricane-strength cyclone on Saturday,” the Hurricane Center said.

Fiona’s powerful centre is currently expected to pass west of Bermuda, thus avoiding the worst winds for the British island territory. But sustained winds of at least tropical storm strength – 39 to 73 mph – are expected to reach Bermuda late Thursday or early Friday, the center said.
The U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory Tuesday urging U.S. citizens to reconsider traveling to Bermuda because of the storm. The department also authorized families of U.S. government personnel to leave the island in response to the storm.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said Wednesday that while the storm is not expected to track near the U.S. East Coast, it could generate 8 to 10-foot onshore waves there over the weekend.

“It’s not a good weekend to go to the shore – time to get out of the water,” Miles said of the East Coast.

Fiona is likely to affect parts of Atlantic Canada as a powerful hurricane-strength cyclone late Friday and Saturday, with the potential to hit the region with strong winds, storm surge and heavy rainfall.
The storm has strengthened over the past few days — it made landfall in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic as a Category 1 hurricane, then was hit by an external hurricane as it moved over the water and toward the Turks and Caicos Islands as a Category 2 hurricane and a 3.3.

‘We can’t take it anymore’

Many in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico are still grappling with Fiona’s fallout and may face a prolonged relief and recovery process.

In Nizao, a small city in the southern Dominican Republic, a woman tearfully told CNN affiliate Noticias SIN that Fiona’s wind had destroyed her home.

Next Named Storm Could Be a Huge Hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico

“Thank God my daughters are safe. I managed to cover them with things and block them with a washing machine,” she told Noticias SIN this week.

Another woman in Nizao, who was clearing dirt from her belongings, told Noticias SIN she was frustrated because floods often damage the area. She said she left all her belongings behind when the floods hit this week.

“We can’t take it anymore. Every year we lose beds, clothes, food, everything,” the second woman told Noticias SIN.

More than 610 homes in the Dominican Republic were destroyed and some communities were left without assistance due to the storm, said Garcia, director of the Dominican Republic’s Emergency Operations Center.

Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluis Say The federal government has approved the island’s major disaster declaration request to ensure additional help from FEMA, it said on Twitter on Wednesday.
Although President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration on Sunday, a major disaster declaration would bring additional resources — mainly personal assistance in the form of funding for housing and other needs, as well as support for damaged infrastructure. Public assistance for permanent reconstruction.

Restorers face challenges

He said Tuesday that the governor expects power to be restored to “the majority of the population” by late Wednesday, with the exception of the southern part of the island, which has suffered the worst damage.

But restoration crews face challenges: According to Josué Colón, executive director of the Puerto Rico Electricity Authority, many lines thought to have been repaired have been temporarily shut down due to various equipment problems.

Crews may also have problems requiring work to be suspended so that the already damaged grid is not overloaded, a spokesman for electricity provider LUMA Energy said on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Pierluisi will take an air tour of the island with FEMA administrator Criswell, he said. Criswell, who arrived on Tuesday to determine what additional federal help was needed, worked with Patilas’ governor that day to investigate the damage.

“The community there…(has) severely impacted roads, damaged bridges. Water flooded the streets,…the rest of the community (was) inaccessible,” Criswell said on Wednesday. said at a press conference.

“But I also saw a resilient Puerto Rico,” she said. “I met a woman named Anna who made her own home on her driveway to help make a way for the community. As the bridge was washed away, her home became a place to help others with food and water. channel or her community.”

The National Guard directs traffic in Cayey, Puerto Rico, and resident Luis Noguera helps clear the road.

The storm hit Puerto Rico catastrophically, and parts of Puerto Rico are still recovering since Hurricane Maria swept the island in 2017, causing widespread infrastructure damage and home destruction.

Pierluisi said Tuesday that Fiona’s damage was “devastating” and “catastrophic” in the central, southern and southeastern parts of the island.

More than 800 people were housed in dozens of shelters across the island on Wednesday, according to Puerto Rico Housing Secretary William Rodriguez.

More than 1,200 people were placed in dozens of shelters across Puerto Rico on Tuesday, the governor said. According to the governor, some 200 families were trapped in the island’s Barrows district due to the destruction of a bridge.

Emergency crews are grappling with mudslides and flooding conditions that have blocked access to parts of the power grid and hard-hit and remote areas that need supplies, a CNN crew reported.

CNN Puerto Rico’s Leyla Santiagio and CNN’s Robert Shackelford, Jamiel Lynch, Amanda Musa, Chris Boyette, Taylor Ward and Geneva Sands contributed to this report.

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