Hurricane Fiona slowly moved north toward Bermuda as a Category 4 storm early Wednesday after hitting the Turks and Caicos Islands, knocking out Puerto Rico’s electrical grid for the most part and soaking parts of the Dominican Republic this week. goods.
Fiona, the strongest storm yet this Atlantic hurricane season, was about 170 miles north of the northernmost island of the Turks and Caicos archipelago when it moved north at about eight miles per hour Wednesday morning, the National Hurricane Center said. in a prediction. The hurricane had maximum sustained winds of 130 mph and was expected to approach Bermuda late Thursday after strengthening and shifting north-northeast.
As of Wednesday at 5 a.m. Dutch time, Fiona was still about 720 miles southwest of Bermuda, where a tropical storm watch was in effect.
Forecasters hadn’t expected Fiona to pose a threat to the United States’ east coast, but the Hurricane Center said the hurricane could create swells on Wednesday and Thursday that would trigger life-threatening surf and rip currents.
The storm ravaged the Turks and Caicos Islands on Tuesday, cutting power and displacing at least 163 people, officials said. There were no immediate reports of injuries or deaths.
The effects of the storm were still felt on Tuesday in the Dominican Republic, where flash flooding continued after torrential rains that would drop to 20 inches in some places, and in Puerto Rico, where most people were left without electricity and running water.
As of Tuesday afternoon, parts of Puerto Rico were forecast to receive up to 35 inches of rain since Sunday. Authorities there said they had restored power to more than 300,000 utilities, but nearly 1.2 million customers were still without power Tuesday night, according to poweroutage.us, which is tracking outages.
Officials in Puerto Rico said on Tuesday that two-thirds of the island’s water and sewer customers — more than 760,000 — were still out of service due to a lack of power for pumps or cloudy water at filtration plants.
Governor Pedro R. Pierluisi said it would take at least a week for his government to estimate how much damage Fiona had caused. The rain in parts of central, southern and southeastern Puerto Rico was “catastrophic,” he said at a news conference.
Fiona strengthened into a Category 4 storm early Wednesday, hours after another weather system in the Atlantic developed into Tropical Storm Gaston, the seventh storm named for the 2022 hurricane season. That storm was more than 900 miles south by early Wednesday. west of the Azores in the North Atlantic and posed no immediate threat to the country.
At least four deaths have been attributed to Fiona: two in the Dominican Republic and one in Puerto Rico and Guadeloupe, Saturday hit by the storm.
The Dominican Republic’s eastern provinces, home to one of the largest tourism industries in the Caribbean, took the brunt of the storm early Monday. Fiona brought 90 mph winds and heavy rain that caused mudslides, shuttered resorts and damaged highways, officials said.
The Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June to November, got off to a relatively calm start, with only three named storms before September 1 and none in August, the first time since 1997. Storm activity increased in early September with Danielle and Earl, that formed within a day of each other.
The links between hurricanes and climate change are becoming clearer every year. Data shows that hurricanes have become stronger worldwide over the past four decades. A warming planet can expect stronger hurricanes over time and a higher incidence of the most powerful storms — although the total number of storms may drop as factors such as stronger wind shear can prevent weaker storms from forming.
Hurricanes also get wetter because there is more water vapor in the warmer atmosphere; storms like Hurricane Harvey in 2017 produced far more rain than they would have had without human effects on climate, scientists have suggested. Also, rising sea levels contribute to higher storm surges, the most destructive elements of tropical cyclones.
In early August, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released an updated forecast for the remainder of the season, which still required above-normal activity levels.
In it, they predicted the season could feature 14 to 20 named storms, turning six to 10 hurricanes that could withstand winds of at least 74 mph. Three to five of those could strengthen into what the agency calls major hurricanes — Category 3 or stronger — with winds of at least 111 mph
There were 21 named storms last year, after a record 30 in 2020. Over the past two years, meteorologists have exhausted the list of names used to identify storms during the Atlantic hurricane season, an event that has only occurred once, in 2005. .
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