Hurricane Fiona intensified into a Category 4 storm overnight after pummeling the Turks and Caicos Islands and leaving extensive destruction in its wake in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
Meanwhile, a new tropical storm, Gaston, gained strength in the Atlantic Ocean, with maximum sustained winds increasing to nearly 50 mph with higher gusts since early Wednesday.
The National Hurricane Center warned that storm surge generated by Gaston could hit the Azores, an archipelago in the mid-Atlantic, later this week, causing life-threatening surf conditions and rip currents.
As of late Wednesday, Fiona was about 550 miles southwest of Bermuda and is expected to pass just west of the British island territory on Thursday night, according to the hurricane center.
The storm had maximum sustained winds of 130 mph and was moving north at 10 mph, he said.
A hurricane watch and tropical storm warning are in effect for Bermuda, which could see 2 to 4 inches of rain, the center said in an update late Wednesday.
“A storm surge will cause elevated water levels along the Bermuda coast in areas of onshore winds beginning Thursday night,” the center said. “Near the coast, the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves.”
So far, multiple deaths have been reported in the wake of Fiona, as Puerto Rico continues to grapple with widespread devastation, including power outages and water supply issues.
A 78-year-old man was found dead and a 70-year-old woman was apparently affected by the gas emitted by a generator in a house in the Las Granjas neighborhood, a fire department on the island reported in a statement. A dead dog was also found at the scene, authorities said. The house, authorities said, had all its windows and one canopy door closed.
As of Tuesday night, more than 1.1 million customers across the US were still without power, according to the online tracker. Poweroutage.es. That’s almost a third of the population.
Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi said during a press conference on Tuesday that he expected a steady and gradual improvement of power restoration throughout the island.
He warned, however, that more rain had increased the likelihood that some areas would experience additional flooding and mudslides. On average, she said, the island had seen 10 to 16 inches of rain, with the hardest-hit areas seeing more than 25 inches.
Pierluisi said he had signed an executive order giving residents access to food throughout the island.
The devastating impact of the storm came as Puerto Rico commemorated the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Maria, the deadliest natural disaster on US soil in a century, from which the island is still recovering.
It also took place on the anniversary of Hurricane Hugo, which hit Puerto Rico 33 years ago as a Category 3 storm.
As the territory now deals with the aftermath of a new storm, some residents have raised concerns about the response effort.
“Puerto Rico is not prepared for this, or for anything,” Mariangy Hernández, a 48-year-old housewife, told The Associated Press.
He said he had doubts his community of about 300 people would receive long-term support from the government, despite ongoing efforts to clear streets and restore power.
“This is only for a couple of days and then they forget about us,” he said.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has been helping with the response to Fiona after President Joe Biden declared a federal emergency for Puerto Rico on Sunday. FEMA’s director visited the territory Tuesday to survey the damage, as the agency announced it would send hundreds more people. to complement response efforts.
Meanwhile, the US Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency on the island and dispatched teams to the territory.
joe studley, flat anthony, nicole duarte other The Associated Press contributed.