Powerful Hurricane Fiona roaring through Bermuda, then on to Canada

Published by
Peter Kavinsky

Fiona, a Category 4 hurricane, hit Bermuda with heavy rain and winds on Friday as it swept across the island on a predicted course to approach northeastern Canada later in the day as a still-powerful storm.

Authorities in Bermuda opened shelters and closed schools and offices before Fiona. Prime Minister David Burt tweeted asking residents to “take care of yourselves and your family. Let’s all remember to check in and take care of your elders, family members and neighbors.”

The Canadian Hurricane Center has issued a hurricane watch over extensive coastal stretches of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland. The US National Hurricane Center said Fiona is expected to hit the area as a “large and powerful post-tropical cyclone with hurricane-force winds”.

“It will be a storm that everyone will remember when all is said and done,” said Bob Robichaud, an alert meteorologist at the Canadian Hurricane Center.

The US center said Fiona had maximum sustained winds of 215 km/h on Thursday. It was centered about 195 miles (315 kilometers) west of Bermuda, going north-northeast at 21 mph (33 km/h).

Hurricane-force winds extended outward to 115 miles (185 kilometers) from the center and tropical storm-force winds extended outward to 275 miles (445 kilometers).

So far, Fiona has been blamed for at least five deaths – two in Puerto Rico, two in the Dominican Republic and one on the French island of Guadeloupe.

Hurricanes in Canada are somewhat rare, in part because once storms hit colder waters, they lose their main source of energy. and become extratropical. But these cyclones can still have hurricane-force winds, albeit with a cold rather than a hot core and no visible eyes. Their shape can also be different. They lose their symmetrical shape and can more closely resemble a comma.

Robichaud told a news conference that the modeling projected “all-weather” low pressure across the region, which would bring thunderstorms and rainfall of 10 to 20 centimeters (4 to 8 inches).

Amanda McDougall, mayor of Cape Breton Regional Municipality, said authorities were preparing a shelter for people to enter before the storm hit.

“We’ve been through these types of events before, but my fear is, not to this extent,” she said. “The impacts will be large, real and immediate.”

Dave Pickles, Nova Scotia Power’s chief operating officer, said he expected widespread power outages.

Before arriving in Bermuda, Fiona caused severe flooding and devastation in Puerto Rico, prompting US President Joe Biden to say on Thursday that the full force of the federal government is ready to help reclaim US territory.

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 federal and FEMA officials are already in Puerto Rico, where Fiona caused an island-wide blackout.

More than 60% of power customers remained without power on Thursday and a third of customers were without water, while local officials said they could not say when service would be fully restored.

On Friday, hundreds of people in Puerto Rico remained isolated by blocked roads five days after the hurricane made landfall. Frustration was mounting for people like Nancy Galarza, who tried to ask the work crews she saw in the distance for help.

“Everyone goes there,” she said, pointing to teams at the foot of the mountain that were helping others also isolated by the storm. “No one comes here to see us. I am concerned for all the elderly in this community.”

At least five landslides have covered the narrow road to their community in the steep mountains around the northern town of Caguas. The only way to reach the settlement was to climb thick mounds of mud, rocks and debris left behind by Fiona, whose floodwaters shook the foundations of nearby houses with the force of an earthquake.

At least eight of Caguas’ 11 communities were completely isolated, said Luis González, municipal inspector for recovery and reconstruction.

It was one of at least six municipalities where teams had not yet reached some areas. People there often rely on neighbors for help, as they did after Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm in 2017 that killed nearly 3,000 people.

Danciel Rivera arrived in rural Caguas with a church group and tried to bring some joy by dressing up as a clown.

“This is very important at these times,” he said, noting that people never fully recovered from Hurricane Maria. “A lot of PTSD has come up these days.”

His huge clown shoes stomped through the mud as he greeted people, whose faces lit up as they smiled at him.

___

Associated Press writers Zeke Miller in Washington, Seth Borenstein in New York, Rob Gillies in Toronto and Maricarmen Rivera Sánchez in San Juan, Puerto Rico contributed.

Peter Kavinsky

Peter Kavinsky is the Executive Editor at cablefreetv.org

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