Hurricane Fiona closes in on Bermuda as a Category 4 storm; Thousands in Puerto Rico are still without power

After causing great destruction Hurricane Fiona, which hit Puerto Rico — and then the Dominican Republic and the Turks and Caicos Islands — was expected to pass near Bermuda late Thursday as a Category 4 storm. Authorities in Bermuda opened shelters and announced that schools and offices would be closed on Friday.

As of Thursday evening, the US National Hurricane Center Fiona said had maximum sustained winds of 130 mph. It was centered about 305 miles southwest of Bermuda, moving northeast at 20 mph.

Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 70 miles from the center, and tropical-storm-force winds extended outward up to 275 miles.

Fiona’s eye was predicted to pass west of Bermuda on Thursday night, bringing “tropical storm conditions” to the island. It was then expected to “approach” the Atlantic Canadian province of Nova Scotia on Friday, the NHC said. It would reach the Gulf of St. Lawrence on Saturday.

Fiona’s outer bands reached British territory in the early afternoon.

Hurricane Fiona Puerto Rico
Antonio Perez Miranda walks out of his house through the mud left by the overflowing Rio de la Plata River in San Jose de Toa Baja, caused by Hurricane Fiona, which passed Puerto Rico on Sept. 18, Sept. 20, 2022.

Pedro Portal / Miami Herald / Tribune News Service / Getty Images

Bermuda was expected to receive 2 to 4 inches of rain and Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and western Newfoundland 3 to 6 inches, the NHC said. 2 to 5 inches of rain was possible in eastern Quebec.

Bermuda Premier David Burt sent a tweet urging residents to “take care of yourselves and your families. Let’s all remember to check and look after our seniors, family and neighbors. Stay safe.”

The Canadian Hurricane Center 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 strong storm when it reaches Canada’s Atlantic provinces as a post-tropical cyclone, likely late Friday.

“This is going to be a storm everyone remembers when it’s all said and done,” said Bob Robichaud, a Canadian Hurricane Center warning preparedness meteorologist.

Hurricanes in Canada are somewhat rare, in part because when storms reach colder water, they lose their primary source of energy and become extratropical. These cyclones can still have hurricane force winds, but now have a cold core instead of a warm core and no visible eye. Their shape can also be different. They lose their symmetrical shape and may look more like a comma.

Fiona has been blamed 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 light damage and no deaths.

U.S. President Joe Biden and FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell attend a briefing on the impact of Hurricane Fiona on Puerto Rico on September 22, 2022 in New York.


President Biden, meanwhile, said Thursday that the full force of the federal government is ready to help Puerto Rico recover from the devastation of Hurricane Fiona.

Speaking at 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 in Puerto Rico, where Fiona caused an island-wide power outage.

About 62% of Puerto Rico’s 1.47 million customers were without power Thursday, according to the Puerto Rico government. A third of the customers, or more than 400,000, did not yet have water service. Local officials admitted they could not say when service would be fully restored.

Biden said his message to the people of Puerto Rico, who are still suffering from Hurricane Maria five years ago, is: “We are with you. We are not going to walk away.”

“Too many homes and businesses are still without power,” Biden said in New York, adding that additional utility crews were scheduled to arrive on the island in the coming days to help restore power.

That seemed to contrast with former President Donald Trump, who was widely blamed for an inadequate response to Maria, which left some Puerto Ricans without power for 11 months. 2017’s Category 4 Hurricane Maria killed nearly 3,000 people.

Josué Colón, executive director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, said at a news conference that areas less affected by Fiona should have electricity by Friday morning. But officials declined to say when power would be restored in the worst-hit areas, saying they were working first to get power to hospitals and other critical infrastructure.

Neither local nor federal officials had provided an overall estimate of damage from the storm, which dropped up to 30 inches in some areas.

Hundreds of people in Puerto Rico was off the road for four days after the hurricane made landfall in the U.S., and people like Nancy Galarza trying to signal for help from crews spotted from afar, increased.

“Everybody’s going there,” he said, pointing to crews at the base of the mountain helping others cut off by the storm. “No one comes here to see us. I’m worried about all the seniors in this community.”

At least five landslides cover the narrow road leading to his community in the steep mountains north of the town of Caguas. The only way to reach the settlement is to climb over thick piles of mud, rock and debris left behind by Fiona, whose floodwaters shook the foundations of nearby homes with earthquake-like force.

“The rocks sounded like thunder,” recalled Vanessa Flores, 47, a school administrator. “I’ve never heard that in my life. It was terrible.”

City officials evacuated at least one oxygen-dependent elderly woman Thursday as they worked in torrential rain to clear roads in a San Salvador community.

Ramiro Figueroa, 63, said his bedridden 97-year-old father refused to leave the home despite requests from emergency crews. Their path was blocked by mud, rocks, trees and the nurse’s pickup truck, which was washed down the hill during the storm.

National Guard troops and others brought water, cereal, canned peaches and two bottles of apple juice.

“It’s helped me tremendously,” Figueroa said as he surveyed the devastated landscape where the river had changed course and torn apart a community.

At least eight of Caguas’ 11 communities are completely isolated, said Luis González, a recovery and reconstruction inspector. It is one of at least six municipalities where teams have not yet reached some areas. People there often depend on help from their neighbors, just as they did after Hurricane Maria.