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Hurricane Fiona buffets Bermuda as Canada braces for major jolt

Friday, September 23rd 2022, 9:35 am - Bermudians prepared for the onslaught of Hurricane Fiona on Thursday after causing several deaths and leaving many people sweltering without power in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

By Don Burgess and Ivelisse Rivera

HAMILTON, Bermuda (Reuters) - Hurricane Fiona drenched Bermuda with heavy rain and buffeted the Atlantic island with hurricane-force winds on Friday as it tracked northward toward Nova Scotia, where it threatens to become one of the most severe storms in Canada's history.

Fiona already battered a series of Caribbean islands earlier in the week, killing at least eight people and knocking out power for virtually all of Puerto Rico's 3.3 million people during a sweltering heat wave.

The storm skirted Bermuda as a monster Category 4 storm but diminished in power to Category 3 as it passed well to the west of the British territory, which lies 700 miles off the U.S. state of North Carolina. Still, gusts reached as high as 103 mph overnight, with sustained winds of up to 80 mph, the Bermuda Weather Service said in a bulletin.

2022-09-23T051152Z 3 LYNXMPEI8M03V RTROPTP 4 STORM-FIONA Increasing wind pushes waves towards the south shore before the arrival of Hurricane Fiona in Bermuda September 22, 2022. REUTERS/Nicola Muirhead

The Bermuda Electric Light Co, the island's sole power provider, said about 25,000 customers, or more than 60% of its customer base, had no electricity on Friday.

With the storm still lashing the island with rain and high winds, all government offices and schools were closed on Friday.

While there were no additional assessments on damage or reports of casualties, Bermudans appeared to have prepared well for the storm, which devastated Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic earlier in the week.

Across the island, residents cleared loose debris from yards and readied to close storm shutters. Many homes are built with small shuttered windows, slate roofs and limestone blocks to withstand frequent hurricanes.

"I'm taking every precaution to stay safe," Dean Williams, a resident of the capital city of Hamilton, said on Thursday. "Preparation is the key because at its highest intensity we can do nothing but wait it out."

2022-09-23T051152Z 3 LYNXMPEI8M03W RTROPTP 4 STORM-FIONA Increasing wind pushes waves towards the south shore before the arrival of Hurricane Fiona in Bermuda September 22, 2022. REUTERS/Nicola Muirhead

At 8 a.m. Eastern, Hurricane Fiona was about 125 miles (200 km) north of Bermuda and about 730 miles (1175 km) south of Halifax, the Nova Scotia capital, moving north-northeast at 25 mph (41 kmh). As a Category 3 hurricane, it was carrying maximum sustained winds of 125 mph (205 kmh), the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

This storm is expected to bring hurricane-force winds and torrential rain to the Atlantic provinces and eastern Quebec beginning Friday afternoon and extending through Saturday.

A hurricane warning was in effect for most of central and eastern Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. The eye will move across Nova Scotia later Friday, the NHC said, and into the Gulf of St. Lawrence on Saturday and over Labrador on Sunday.

Fiona is shaping up to be the most powerful storm to reach Canada since Dorian made landfall to the west of Halifax in September 2019, the government's Environment Canada website said.

WATCH: Forecasters fear Hurricane Fiona could be worse than Dorian's destructive path across the East Coast

Like Dorian, Fiona could ease to a post-tropical storm, but Dorian still carried Category 2 intensity, with sustained winds of 96 mph (155 kph). It toppled century-old trees and triggered an extensive power outage.

And Fiona could dump more rain. Forecasters say areas close to its path could get up to 8 inches (200 mm) of rain, while winds could damage buildings and cause utility outages, with storm surges swamping the coastlines.

The hurricane already displayed its devastating strength in Puerto Rico and other islands of the Caribbean, killing at least four people in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency said.

U.S. President Joe Biden, at a briefing in New York, said the federal government would fund debris removal, power and water restoration as well as shelter and food for the next month.

An estimated 1 million homes and businesses remained without power in the U.S. territory on Thursday after Fiona hit on Sunday, as people sweltered in the heat and humidity.

Loumarie Rosa, a 26-year-old assistant at a chiropractic clinic, said there was no gasoline for her generator in her hometown of Hatillo.

"It's like the earth is on fire," she said. "We can't even turn on a fan."

(Reporting by Don Burgess in Hamilton and Ismail Shakil in Ottawa; Additional reporting by Ivelissa Rivera in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Rich McKay in Atlanta and Frank McGurty in New York; Writing by Jonathan Allen and Daniel Trotta; Editing by Mark Porter)

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