Wednesday, September 21st 2022, 9:45 am - An estimated 1.2 million homes and businesses remain without power in Puerto Rico Wednesday morning after Hurricane Fiona slammed into the island on Sunday, causing an island-wide power outage for its roughly 3.3 million people.
(Reuters) - Hurricane Fiona strengthened to a powerful Category 4 storm on Wednesday as it headed toward Bermuda after slamming Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and the Turks and Caicos Islands with heavy rains and flooding, a U.S. government agency said.
With its eye now about 700 miles (1125 km) southwest of Bermuda, Fiona was packing winds as high as 130 miles per hour (215 kPh) and was expected to strengthen as it moved north, the National Hurricane Center said in an early Wednesday report.
"On the forecast track, the center of Fiona will continue to move away from the Turks and Caicos today, and approach Bermuda late on Thursday," the agency said.
The Bermuda Weather Service has issued a tropical storm warning for the archipelago, which lies 600 miles east of the U.S. state of North Carolina, as Fiona tracks to the west of the British Overseas Territory. Hurricane-force winds are a possibility depending on the storm's path, it said.
"Outer rain bands will sweep into the region bringing bouts of showers, thunderstorms, and heavy rain," the weather service said in its forecast for Thursday and Friday.
A man stands amidst debris on the seashore in the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, September 19, 2022. REUTERS/Ricardo Rojas
Fiona has so far claimed four lives in Puerto Rico, according to the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency. The storm made landfall on the island, a U.S. territory, on Sunday, knocking out power to the island and dumping massive amounts of rain. A fifth person was killed in Guadeloupe earlier in the week.
An estimated 1.2 million homes and businesses remained without power in Puerto Rico on Wednesday morning, according to Poweroutages.com. LUMA Energy has said full restoration to all 1.5 million customers could take several days.
The pace of power restoration is faster than after Hurricane Maria in 2017 when the entire island was without power for a week.
In the neighboring Dominican Republic, Fiona triggered severe flooding that limited road access to villages, forced 12,500 people from their homes and knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of people.
View of the Chavon River in the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona in Higuey, Dominican Republic, September 19, 2022. REUTERS/Ricardo Rojas
Fiona was the first hurricane to score a direct hit on the Dominican Republic since Jeanne left severe damage in the east of the country in 2004.
U.S. Health Secretary Xavier Becerra declared a public health emergency for Puerto Rico on Tuesday night, freeing up federal funds and equipment to assist the island.
(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta and Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)