After strengthening into a Category 4 storm Wednesday, Hurricane Fiona was forecast to hit Bermuda later this week, bringing threats of hurricane-force winds and surf swells as the storm continues to intensify.
Bermuda is likely to avoid the worst of the storm’s wrath suffered by Puerto Rico, but residents face the possibility of hurricane and tropical storm conditions late Thursday into early Friday, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The forecast also includes a storm surge on the island, including elevated water levels and “large and destructive waves” near the coast, according to the NHC. The Bermudan government advised residents to prepare for the storm by checking water, medicine and food supplies and securing boats and homes.
The storm flooded Puerto Rico with 6 to 20 inches of rain earlier this week, with parts of the island without electricity or running water and under the threat of additional flooding and mudslides days later. Puerto Rico’s fragile electrical grid and continual recovery from Hurricane Maria in 2017 has compounded challenges for rescue and rebuilding efforts.
At least four people have died through the Caribbean, officials said.
In Puerto Rico: ‘We have suffered so much’
Gov. Pedro Pierluisi requested a major disaster declaration Tuesday, calling the damage “catastrophic.” Meanwhile, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced it will send hundreds of personnel to aid local response efforts, while the US Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency.
Puerto Rico experienced widespread landslides, damaged homes, washed-out bridges and downed powerlines as torrential rains and flooding engulfed the island.
Power company officials initially said it would take a few days for electricity to be fully restored, but then appeared to backtrack late Tuesday night. Only 26% had power as of Wednesday morning, three days after it hit the island.
“We have suffered so much,” Rafael Joglar, 68, a biology professor based in San Juan, told USA TODAY, adding that the island has yet to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Maria five years ago.
Path: Hurricane Fiona strengthens to Category 4
Now a Category 4 storm, Hurricane Fiona was located about 700 miles southwest of the island of Bermuda on Wednesday morning with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The storm is expected to strengthen through Wednesday night and move north at 8 mph through the evening.
- BERMUDA: A hurricane watch and tropical storm watch was in effect for Bermuda on Wednesday. Fiona is expected to bring tropical storm conditions to the island late Thursday or early Friday.
- TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS: Gusty winds are expected to continue over parts of Turks and Caicos islands Wednesday morning as the storm moves toward Bermuda. With an additional 1 to 3 inches of rain expected, flooding may continue in the area.
Possibility for another hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico
A developing tropical system could spin up into a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico by the middle of next week, forecasters warned Wednesday.
The system, now known as Invest 98L, was located near the northeastern coast of South America on Wednesday. The majority of computer forecast models curl the system northward into the Gulf of Mexico around the middle of next week.
“This is the most significant threat for the US mainland we’ve had this hurricane season,” AccuWeather chief meteorologist Jonathan Porter said.
Most computer models predict the system will be a tropical storm by the weekend in the Caribbean. The models then show the system strengthening into a hurricane by early next week. If it becomes a named storm, it would be called Hermine.
It does not appear this system will be a threat to areas in the northeastern Caribbean, including Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, all of which have been hardest hit by Hurricane Fiona.
– Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
Damage in Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos
In the Dominican Republic, at least two people died after a 68-year-old man was struck by a falling tree and an 18-year-old girl struck by a falling electrical post. Fiona left over 400,000 homes without power, blocked highways and forced over 1,550 people into government shelters.
In the Turks and Caicos Islands, officials imposed a curfew and urged people to leave flood-prone regions as Fiona approached Tuesday. The area saw minimal damage and no reported deaths. But telecommunications on Grand Turk, the capital island of the Turks and Caicos, were severely affected, and the archipelago saw a handful of downed trees and electric posts.
As Hurricane Fiona bore down on Puerto Rico this week, residents of the US territory in the Caribbean didn’t have to look far for Reminders of the last great storm to hit the area, exactly five years ago: Blue tarps are draped over thousands of homes, structures in need of repair still dot the island and power outages remain persistent.
The deadliest natural disaster in Puerto Rico in 100 years, Hurricane Maria killed roughly 3,000 people and destroyed the electrical system. Though Fiona made landfall Category 1 storm, the damage it wrought even before it struck – including the loss of power and potable water – served as a grim reminder of why, for many of the island’s residents, Maria marked a distinct before and after in their lives. Read more here.
— Amanda Pérez Pintado, Grace Hauck and Adrianna Rodriguez, USA TODAY
Contributing: The Associated Press; Grace Hauck and Chris Kenning, USA TODAY
Contact News Now Reporter Christine Fernando at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @christinetfern.