Tracking Hurricane Fiona: Storm heads toward Bermuda, Canada

Bermuda and Canada’s Atlantic provinces are bracing for a major blast from the Category 4 storm.

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said Thursday the full force of the federal government is ready to help Puerto Rico recover from the devastation of Hurricane Fiona, while Bermuda and Canada’s Atlantic provinces brace for a major blast from the Category 4 storm .

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 on the scene in Puerto Rico where Fiona caused an island-wide power outage.

More than 60% of electricity customers were left without power on Thursday and a third of customers were without water – and local officials admitted they couldn’t say when service would be fully restored.

Biden said his message to the people of Puerto Rico still suffering from Hurricane Maria five years ago is, “We are with you. We won’t go away.”

That seemed to contrast with former President Donald Trump, who has been widely accused of an inadequate response to Maria, leaving some Puerto Ricans without power for 11 months.

The hurricane was expected to still reach Category 4 strength overnight as it passed near Bermuda, where authorities opened shelters and announced closures of schools and offices on Friday.

Fiona’s outer gangs reached British territory as early as Thursday afternoon.

It was expected to still be a large and dangerously powerful storm when it made its way into Canada’s Atlantic provinces, likely late Friday as a post-tropical cyclone.

“It’s going to be a storm that everyone will remember when all is said and done,” said Bob Robichaud, Canadian Hurricane Center alert forecaster.

Hundreds of people in Puerto Rico remained cut off from roads four days after the hurricane hit US territory, and frustration mounted among people like Nancy Galarza, who tried to help workers she spotted in the distance to signal help.

“Everybody go over there,” she said, pointing to the crews at the base of the mountain helping others who were also cut off by the storm. “Nobody comes here to see us. I worry about all the elderly in this community.”

At least five landslides covered the narrow road to their 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 debris left behind by Fiona, whose flood waters shook the foundations of nearby houses with earthquake-like force.

“The rocks sounded like thunder,” recalled Vanessa Flores, a 47-year-old caretaker at the school. “I’ve never heard that in my life. It was terrible.”

At least one elderly woman dependent on oxygen was evacuated Thursday by city officials working in torrential rain to clear pathways to the San Salvador community.

Ramiro Figueroa, 63, said his bedridden 97-year-old father refused to leave the house despite emergency workers’ insistence. Her road was blocked by mud, rocks, trees, and his sister’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 helped me tremendously,” Figueroa said as he scanned the devastated landscape where a river had changed course and torn the community apart.

At least eight of 11 communities in Caguas are in complete isolation, said Luis González, municipal recovery and reconstruction inspector. It is one of at least six communities where crews have yet to reach some areas. People there often rely on help from neighbors, as was the case after Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm in 2017 that claimed nearly 3,000 lives.

Miguel Veguilla said that after Maria’s aftermath, he used pickaxes and shovels to clear up debris. But Fiona was different and triggered huge landslides.

“I can’t throw these stones over my shoulder,” he said.

Like hundreds of thousands in Puerto Rico, Veguilla has no running water or electricity but said there is a natural water source nearby.

Danciel Rivera, 31, came to rural Caguas with a church group and tried to spread some joy by dressing up as a clown.

“That’s very important in these moments,” he said, noting that people never fully recovered from Hurricane Maria. “A lot of PTSD have their heads up these days.”

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

Puerto Rico’s government said about 62% of its 1.47 million customers were without power Thursday. A third of the customers or more than 400,000 did not have a water connection.

“Too many homes and businesses are still without power,” Biden said in New York, adding that additional supply crews would travel to the island to help restore power in the coming days.

Puerto Rico’s Electric Energy Authority executive director Josué Colón told 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 to the hardest-hit locations, saying they were working first to bring power to hospitals and other essential infrastructure.

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

The US center said Fiona experienced maximum sustained winds of 130 mph (215 kph) late Thursday afternoon. It was centered about 280 miles (455 kilometers) west-southwest of Bermuda and traveling north-northeast at 20 mph (31 km/h).

Hurricane-force winds extended up to 110 kilometers outward from the center and tropical storm-force winds extended up to 335 kilometers outward.

Bermuda Premier David Burt tweeted, urging residents to “take care of yourselves and your family. Let’s all remember to check in and take care of your elders, your family and your neighbors. Take care.”

The Canadian Hurricane Center issued a hurricane watch for the extensive coastal areas of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island.

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. These hurricanes can still have hurricane-force winds, but now have a cold instead of warm core and no visible eye. Their shape can also be different. They lose their symmetrical shape and can more closely resemble 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 also hit the Turks and Caicos Islands on Tuesday, but officials there reported relatively light damage and no fatalities. Tracking Hurricane Fiona: Storm heads toward Bermuda, Canada

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