SAN SALVADOR, Puerto Rico (AP) – Fiona, a Category 4 hurricane, battered Bermuda with heavy rain and wind early Friday as it swept past the island on a path expected to approach northeastern Canada late in the day as a still strong storm.
Authorities in Bermuda opened shelters and closed schools and offices in front of Fiona. Premier David Burt sent a tweet urging residents to “take care of yourself and your family. Let’s all remember to check out and take care of your elderly, family and neighbors.”
The Canadian Hurricane Center issued a hurricane watch for extensive stretches of coastline in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland. The US National Hurricane Center said Fiona should reach the area as a “large and powerful post-tropical cyclone with hurricane-force winds.”
“It’s going to be a storm everyone remembers when it’s all said and done,” said Bob Robichaud, Canadian Hurricane Centre’s emergency preparedness meteorologist.
The US center said Fiona had maximum sustained winds of 130 mph (215 km/h) late Thursday. It was centered about 195 miles (315 kilometers) west of Bermuda, heading north-northeast at 21 mph (33 km/h).
Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 115 miles (185 kilometers) from the center and tropical storm-force winds extended outward up to 275 miles (445 kilometers).
Fiona has been blamed for at least five deaths so far – two in Puerto Rico, two in the Dominican Republic and one on the French island of Guadeloupe.
Hurricanes in Canada are somewhat rare, in part because when the storms reach colder waters, they lose their main source of energy. and become extratropical. But these cyclones can still have hurricane-force winds, albeit with a cold instead of a warm core and no visible eye. Their shape can also be different. They lose their symmetrical shape and may look more like a comma.
Robichaud said at a press conference that modeling projected “all-time” low pressure across the region, which would bring storm surges and rainfall of between 10 to 20 centimeters (4 to 8 inches).
Amanda McDougall, mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, said officials were preparing a shelter for people to enter before the storm arrived.
“We’ve been through these kinds of events before, but my fear is not on this scale,” she said. “The consequences will be big, real and immediate.”
Dave Pickles, CEO of Nova Scotia Power, said it expected widespread power outages.
Before reaching Bermuda, Fiona caused severe flooding and destruction in Puerto Rico, prompting US President Joe Biden to say Thursday that the full force of the federal government is ready to help the US territory recover.
At a briefing with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials in New York, Biden said, “We’re all in this together.”
Biden noted that hundreds of FEMA and other federal officials are already on the ground in Puerto Rico, where Fiona caused an island-wide blackout.
More than 60% of electric customers remained without power Thursday and a third of customers were without water, while local officials said they could not say when service would be fully restored.
As of Friday, hundreds of people in Puerto Rico remained isolated by blocked roads, five days after the hurricane tore into the island. Frustration mounted for people like Nancy Galarza, who tried to signal for help from work crews she saw in the distance.
“Everybody’s going over there,” she said, pointing to crews at the base of the mountain helping others also cut off by the storm. “No one comes here to see us. I’m worried about all the elderly people in this community.”
At least five landslides covered the narrow road to her community in the steep mountains surrounding the northern city of Caguas. The only way to reach the settlement was to climb over thick piles of mud, rock and debris left behind by Fiona, whose floodwaters shook the foundations of nearby homes with earthquake-like force.
At least eight of the 11 communities in Caguas were completely isolated, said Luis González, municipal inspector of recovery and reconstruction.
It was one of at least six municipalities where crews had not yet reached some areas. People there often rely on help from neighbors, as they did after Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm in 2017 that killed nearly 3,000 people.
Danciel Rivera arrived in rural Caguas with a church group and tried to bring some cheer by dressing as a clown.
“It’s very important in these moments,” he said, noting that people had never fully recovered from Hurricane Maria. “A lot of PTSD has reared its head these days.”
His huge clown shoes pushed through the mud as he greeted people whose faces lit up as they smiled at him.
Associated Press writers Zeke Miller in Washington, Seth Borenstein in New York, Rob Gillies in Toronto and Maricarmen Rivera Sánchez in San Juan, Puerto Rico contributed.