Hurricane Fiona has escalated into a Category 4 storm as it continues its catastrophic path northward on Wednesday, leaving behind disaster-stricken communities in Puerto Rico, Turks and Caicos and the Dominican Republic who must now begin working toward recovery.
Fiona’s sustained winds are raging as high as 130 miles per hour with gusts reaching 155 miles per hour, the National Hurricane Center said early Wednesday, and it is still expected to strengthen as it moves away from Turks and Caicos on Wednesday and makes its way to Bermuda by the week’s end.
After touching down in Puerto Rico on Sunday, the storm ripped through the island and then slammed into the Dominican Republic, causing devastating flooding and leaving critical water and power infrastructure damage in its wake. Most people in the storm’s path were left without power or water in the immediate aftermath, officials said.
Turks and Caicos was under a hurricane warning on Tuesday and residents were urged to shelter in place as sustained winds of up to almost 125 miles per hour — and even higher gusts — battered the islands, according to the British territory’s Department of Disaster Management and Emergencies. Conditions are expected to improve as the storm moves further north.
Several parts of Turks and Caicos experienced island-wide power outages, including Grand Turk, South Caicos, Salt Cay, North Caicos and Middle Caicos, according to Deputy Governor Anya Williams.
The emergency management department warned that storm surges could cause water levels to rise between 5 and 8 feet above regular tide levels. It also cautioned beachgoers that Fiona’s impact could generate “life-threatening surf and rip-current conditions.”
While Williams said no deaths or serious injuries had been reported in Turks and Caicos as of Tuesday evening, at least five deaths have been recorded elsewhere across the Caribbean.
Two people have died in the Dominican Republic, according to the territory’s emergency operations center: 18-year-old Aurielys Esther Jimenez who was struck by a falling power pole while riding a motorcycle and a man was killed by a tree felled by strong winds.
One person was reported dead on the French island of Guadeloupe, though officials did not provide further details. In Puerto Rico, at least two are dead, including 58-year-old Gilberto Ayala Aponte who was swept away by a flooded river and 70-year-old José Cruz Román who died in a fire accident while trying to fill his generator, Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi said.
The storm is expected to continue heading north through Wednesday then it will likely turn toward the northeast and begin approaching Bermuda, the NHC said.
The Bermuda Weather Service has issued a tropical storm watch ahead of the hurricane’s approach. Fiona’s center is forecast to pass about 150 to 200 miles west of Bermuda, but the storm’s increased size could mean the island may be hit by tropical storm conditions.