After causingin Puerto Rico — then ravaging the Dominican Republic and the Turks and Caicos Islands — Hurricane Fiona was set to pass close to Bermuda late Thursday as a Category 4 storm. Bermuda authorities opened shelters and announced schools and offices would be closed on Friday .
Since late Thursday night, the US National Hurricane Center said Fiona had maximum sustained winds of 130 mph. It was centered about 195 miles southwest of Bermuda, heading northeast at 21 mph.
Hurricane-force winds extended outwards to 115 miles from the center and tropical storm-force winds extended outwards as far as 275 miles.
Fiona’s eyewest of Bermuda overnight Thursday, bringing “tropical storm conditions” to the island. It was then expected to “approach” the province of Nova Scotia in Atlantic Canada on Friday, the NHC said. It would reach the Gulf of St. Lawrence on Saturday.
“Some slight weakening is predicted to begin tonight or Friday, but Fiona is expected to be a large and powerful post-tropical cyclone with hurricane strength as it approaches and crosses Nova Scotia Friday night and Saturday,” the NHS said.
It was expected to bring between 2 and 4 inches of rain to Bermuda, and anywhere from 3 to 6 inches of rain to Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and western Newfoundland, the NHC said. Eastern Quebec could see 2 to 5 inches of rain.
Bermuda Prime Minister David Burt tweeted out urging residents to “take care of yourself and your family. Let’s all remember to check and look out for your seniors, family and neighbors. Stay safe.”
The Canadian Hurricane Center has issued a hurricane watch for extensive coastal areas of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island.
It is still expected to be a large and dangerously powerful storm when it reaches Canada’s Atlantic provinces, likely late Friday, as a post-tropical cyclone.
“It’s going to be a storm that everyone will remember when it’s all said and done,” said Bob Robichaud, a preparedness meteorologist at the Canadian Hurricane Center.
Hurricanes in Canada are somewhat rare, in part because once the storms reach colder waters, they lose their primary source of energy and become extratropical. Those cyclones may still have hurricane strength, but now have a cold rather than warm core and no visible eye. Their shape can also be different. They lose their symmetrical shape and can look more like a comma.
Fiona is responsible for at least five deaths so far – two in Puerto Rico, two in the Dominican Republic and one in the French overseas department of Guadeloupe. Fiona hit the Turks and Caicos Islands on Tuesday, but officials there reported relatively minor damage and no deaths.
Meanwhile, President Biden said on Thursday that the full strength of the federal government stands ready to help Puerto Rico recover from the devastation of Hurricane Fiona.
During a briefing with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials in New York, Biden said, “We’re all in this together.”
Biden noted that hundreds of FEMA and other federal officials are already on the scene in Puerto Rico, where Fiona caused an island-wide power outage.
The Puerto Rico government said about 62% of its 1.47 million customers were without power on Thursday. A third of customers, or more than 400,000, did not yet have water service. Local officials admitted they could not say when the service would be fully restored.
Biden said his message to the people of Puerto Rico who were still injured by Hurricane Maria five years ago is, “We’re with you. We’re not going to run away.”
“Too many homes and businesses are still without power,” Biden said in New York, adding that additional utilities would travel to the island to help restore power in the coming days.
That seemed to contrast with former President Donald Trump, who has been widely accused of an inadequate response to Maria, which left some Puerto Ricans without power for 11 months. Maria, a Category 4 storm in 2017, killed nearly 3,000 people.
Puerto Rico’s Electric Energy Authority executive director Josué Colón told a news conference that areas less affected by Fiona should have electricity Friday morning. But officials declined to say when power would be restored to the hardest-hit areas, saying they were working first to get energy to hospitals and other key infrastructure.
Neither local nor federal government officials had given an overall estimate of damage from the storm, which brought up to 30 inches of rain in some areas.
Hundreds of people in Puerto Ricoafter the hurricane ripped across US territory, growing frustration among the likes of Nancy Galarza, who tried to signal help from work crews she saw in the distance.
“Everyone goes there,” she said, pointing to the crews at the bottom of the mountain helping others, also cut off by the storm. “No one comes here to see us. I’m concerned about all the elderly in this community.”
At least five landslides cover the narrow road to her community in the steep mountains surrounding the northern city of Caguas. The only way to reach the settlement is to climb over thick mounds of mud, rocks and rubble left by Fiona, whose floodwaters shook the foundations of nearby houses with an earthquake-like force.
“The rocks sounded like thunder,” recalls Vanessa Flores, a 47-year-old school janitor. “I’ve never heard that in my life. It was terrible.”
At least one elderly woman who is dependent on oxygen was evacuated Thursday by city officials who were working under pouring rain to clear paths to San Salvador’s community.
Ramiro Figueroa, 63, said his bedridden 97-year-old bedridden father refused to leave the house despite the urging of rescue teams. Their way was blocked by mud, rocks, trees and his sister’s pickup truck, which had been washed down the hill in the storm.
National Guard troops and others brought water, cereal, canned peaches and two bottles of apple juice.
“That helped me a lot,” Figueroa said as he scanned the devastated landscape, where a river had changed its course, tearing the community apart.
At least eight of the 11 communities in Caguas are completely isolated, said Luis González, municipal inspector for rehabilitation and reconstruction. It is one of at least six municipalities where crews have yet to reach some areas. People there often depend on neighbors for help, as they did after Hurricane Maria.