SAN SALVADOR, Puerto Rico – Fiona, a Category 4 hurricane, battered Bermuda with heavy rain and winds early Friday as it swept across the island on a track forecast to approach it from northeastern Canada late during the day in the form of a still powerful storm.
Authorities in Bermuda opened shelters and closed schools and offices ahead of Fiona. Premier David Burt sent out a tweet urging residents to “take care of yourself and your family. Remember to check in and be careful of your elders, family and neighbours.”
The Canadian Hurricane Center has issued a hurricane watch for large stretches of coastline in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Fiona is expected to reach the region as a “large, powerful post-tropical cyclone with hurricane-force winds.”
“This will be a storm that everyone will remember when all is said and done,” said Bob Robichaud, warning preparedness meteorologist for the Canadian Hurricane Center.
The US center said Fiona had maximum sustained winds of 130 mph (215 km/h) Thursday evening. It was centered about 195 miles (315 kilometers) west of Bermuda, heading north-northeast at 21 mph (33 km/h).
Hurricane-force winds extended up to 115 miles (185 kilometers) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extended out to 275 miles (445 kilometers).
So far, Fiona has been charged with 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 quite rare, in part because once the storms reach colder waters, they lose their main source of energy. and become extratropical. But these cyclones can still have hurricane-force winds, but with a cold core instead of a warm core and no eye visible. Their shape can also be different. They lose their symmetrical shape and may look more like a comma.
Robichaud told a news conference that modeling predicted an “unprecedented” low in the region, which would bring storm surges and rainfall of 10 to 20 centimeters (4 to 8 inches).
Amanda McDougall, mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, said officials were preparing shelter for people to enter before the storm hits.
“We’ve been through these types of events before, but my fear is not that much,” she said. “The impacts are going to be significant, real and immediate.”
Dave Pickles, chief operating officer of Nova Scotia Power, said he expected widespread power outages.
Before reaching Bermuda, Fiona caused severe flooding and devastation in Puerto Rico, leading US President Joe Biden to declare on Thursday that the full force of the federal government stands ready to help the US territory recover.
Speaking 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 ground in Puerto Rico, where Fiona caused an island-wide blackout.
More than 60% of electricity customers were left 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.
As of Friday, hundreds of people in Puerto Rico were left isolated by blocked roads five days after the hurricane devastated the island. Frustration was mounting for people like Nancy Galarza, who tried to seek help from work crews she spotted in the distance.
“Everyone is going out there,” she said, pointing to crews at the base of the mountain helping others also cut off by the storm. “No one comes here to see us. I’m worried about all the older people in this community.”
At least five landslides covered the narrow road leading to his community in the rugged mountains around the northern town of Caguas. The only way to reach the settlement was to climb over thick mounds of mud, rocks and debris left behind by Fiona, whose floodwaters shook the foundations of nearby homes with earthquake-like force.
At least eight of Caguas’ 11 communities were completely isolated, said Luis González, municipal inspector of recovery and reconstruction.
It was one of at least six municipalities where crews had yet to reach certain areas. People there often depend on help from neighbors, as they did after Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm in 2017 that killed nearly 3,000 people.