Hurricane Fiona has reached Category 4 as it moves north, leaving disaster-stricken areas on the slow road to recovery

Water is the main concern for residents like Carlos Vega, whose town of Cayey in the mountains of east-central Puerto Rico is facing not only utility outages but also partially collapsed roads — a side effect of major flooding. and more than 2 feet of rain that some parts of Puerto Rico were hit with.

“(Being without) power… we can face that and we can deal with that. The biggest concern is with our water. Can’t live without water,” Vega told CNN on Tuesday.

Fiona also pounded parts of the Turks and Caicos islands on Tuesday with sustained winds of nearly 125 mph, officials said. That left many areas without power, including in Grand Turk, South Caicos, Salt Cay, North Caicos and Middle Caicos, said Anya Williams, acting governor of the islands. The authorities were able to begin visiting some islands and began to make repairs.

No deaths were reported in Turks and Caicos as of Wednesday night, Williams said in an update.

Fiona’s flooding left critical infrastructure damage in Puerto Rico and then the Dominican Republic, which the storm crossed on Monday. More than 1 million utility customers in the Dominican Republic were without water service Wednesday morning, and more than 349,000 customers were without power, according to Maj. Gen. Juan Méndez García, director of the country’s emergency operations center.

Meanwhile, parts of Puerto Rico, where hundreds of thousands remained without power, reached heat indices — how the air feels when combined with temperature and humidity — of 105 to 109 degrees Wednesday, according to CNN meteorologist Rob Shackelford.

Sunday’s landfall in Puerto Rico comes nearly five years after Hurricane Maria devastated the island, leaving thousands dead and cutting off power and water service to more than 1 million people for months. .

The storm is pressing north and could threaten Bermuda and Atlantic Canada

Fiona, after its center passed the Turks and Caicos as a Category 3 hurricane, strengthened to a Category 4 — sustained winds of at least 130 mph — early Wednesday over the Atlantic.
As of 8 p.m. ET Wednesday, it was centered about 605 miles southwest of Bermuda, heading north with sustained winds of 130 mph, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said.
Fiona is expected to strengthen some through Wednesday night and approach Bermuda late Thursday, possibly still a Category 4 storm, forecasters said.

“Fiona is forecast to become a hurricane-force cyclone through Saturday,” the hurricane center said.

Fiona’s powerful center is currently expected to pass west of Bermuda, sparing the British island territory its worst winds. But sustained winds of at least tropical-storm force — 39 to 73 mph — are expected to reach Bermuda late Thursday or early Friday, the center said.
The US State Department issued a travel advisory on Tuesday urging US citizens to reconsider traveling to Bermuda because of the storm. The department also allowed family members of US government personnel to leave the island in anticipation of the storm.

Although the storm is not expected to cross near the US East Coast, it could develop onshore waves of 8 to 10 feet there over the weekend, CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said Wednesday.

“It’s not a good weekend to go to the beach and get in the water — it’s time to stay out of the water,” Myers said of the East Coast.

Fiona could affect parts of Atlantic Canada as a strong hurricane-force cyclone on Friday and Saturday, potentially pummeling the region with strong winds, storm surge and heavy rainfall. A storm surge is expected to raise water levels off the coast of Bermuda beginning late Thursday.

“Near the coast, the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves,” the typhoon center said.

The storm has strengthened over the past few days — it made landfall in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic as a Category 1 hurricane before striking both outer bands as it moves over water and toward the Turks and Caicos as a hurricane in Category 2 and 3.

‘We can’t take it anymore’

Many in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico are still grappling with Fiona’s aftermath and will likely face a lengthy relief and recovery process.

In Nizao, a small city in the southern Dominican Republic, a tearful woman told CNN affiliate Noticias SIN that Fiona’s winds destroyed her home.

The next named storm could be a monster hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico

“Thank God my girls (are) safe. I was able to cover them with something and block them with a washing machine,” he told Noticias SIN this week.

Another woman in Nizao who cleans mud from properties told Noticias SIN that she is frustrated because flooding often damages the region. This week, he left all the belongings when the floodwaters came in, he said.

“We can’t do it anymore. Every year we lose beds, clothes, food, everything,” a second woman told Noticias SIN.

More than 610 homes in the Dominican Republic have been destroyed, and several communities have been cut off from aid because of the storm, said García, the director of the country’s emergency operations center.

Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi said on Twitter on Wednesday that the federal government approved a major disaster declaration request for the island, securing additional assistance from FEMA.
Although US President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration on Sunday, a major disaster declaration would bring in additional resources — mainly individual aid in the form of funding for housing and other needs, as well also public assistance to provide for the permanent reconstruction of damaged infrastructure.

Restoration crews face challenges

The governor expects “large parts of the population” to have power restored by late Wednesday, except for the southern region of the island, which suffered the worst damage, he said Tuesday.

But restoration crews are facing challenges: Many lines that were thought to be fixed have been temporarily taken offline due to various equipment issues, according to Josué Colón, executive director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority.

Crews may also encounter issues that require a work stoppage so that a disabled grid is not overloaded, a spokeswoman for the power provider, LUMA Energy, said Wednesday.

Pierluisi will conduct an aerial tour of the island with Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell, he said. Criswell arrived Tuesday to determine what additional federal aid was needed, and later that day assessed the damage with the governor in the city of Patillas.

“The community there … (has) seriously affected the roads, and the bridges have been damaged. Water is flooding the streets, and … other parts of the community (are) inaccessible,” said Criswell at a news conference Wednesday.

“But I also saw a resilient Puerto Rico,” he said. “I met a woman named Anna, who opened her own home in her own driveway to help create a path for the community. With the bridge washed away, her home became the way to help provide food and water to others . of his community.”

The National Guards directed traffic in Cayey, Puerto Rico, while resident Luis Noguera helped clear the road.

The storm was a catastrophic blow to Puerto Rico, which is still recovering in some areas since Hurricane Maria struck the island in 2017, causing widespread damage to infrastructure and destroying homes.

The damage caused by Fiona was “devastating” and “catastrophic” in the island’s central, southern and southeastern regions, Pierluisi said on Tuesday.

Across the island, more than 800 people were housed in dozens of shelters as of Wednesday, according to Puerto Rico’s Housing Secretary William Rodriguez.

CNN’s Leyla Santiagio in Puerto Rico and CNN’s Robert Shackelford, Jamiel Lynch, Amanda Musa, Chris Boyette, Taylor Ward and Geneva Sands contributed to this report.