Powerful Hurricane Fiona sweeps through Bermuda, then into Canada

SAN SALVADOR, Puerto Rico — Fiona, a Category 4 hurricane, slammed into Bermuda early Friday with heavy rains and winds as it passed the island on a route predicted to approach northeastern Canada late in the day as an even increasingly powerful storm.

The authorities in Bermuda opened shelters for Fiona and closed schools and offices. Prime Minister David Burt sent a tweet urging residents to “take care of yourself and your family. Let’s all remember to check and watch out for your seniors, family and neighbors.”

The Canadian Hurricane Center issued a hurricane watch over vast coastal areas of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland. The US National Hurricane Center said Fiona should reach the area as a “large and powerful hurricane-force post-tropical cyclone.”

“It’s going to be a storm that everyone will remember when it’s all said and done,” said Bob Robichaud, a preparedness meteorologist at the Canadian Hurricane Center.

The US center said Fiona had maximum sustained winds of 215 mph at the end of Thursday. It was centered about 195 miles (315 kilometers) west of Bermuda, heading north-northeast at 21 mph (33 kph).

Hurricane-force winds extended outward as far as 115 miles (185 kilometers) from the center, and tropical gale-force winds extended outward as far as 275 miles (445 kilometers).

Fiona is responsible 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 once the storms reach colder waters, they lose their primary source of energy. and become extratropical. But those cyclones can still have hurricane strength, albeit with a cold rather than warm core and no visible eye. Their shape can also be different. They lose their symmetrical shape and can look more like a comma.

Robichaud said at a news conference that modeling predicted an “always” low pressure in the region, which would cause storm surges and rainfall of 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 seen events like this before, but I’m afraid, not to this extent,” she said. “The consequences will be great, real and immediate.”

Nova Scotia Power’s chief operating officer Dave Pickles said it expects widespread power outages.

Before reaching Bermuda, Fiona caused severe flooding and devastation in Puerto Rico, prompting US President Joe Biden on Thursday to say the full strength of the federal government is ready to help restore US territory.

During 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 scene in Puerto Rico, where Fiona caused an island-wide power outage.

More than 60% of power customers were without power on Thursday and a third of customers were without water, while local officials said they could not say when service would be fully restored.

On Friday, hundreds of people in Puerto Rico were left isolated by blocked roads five days after the hurricane crossed the island. Frustration increased for the likes of Nancy Galarza, who tried to call for help from work crews she saw in the distance.

“Everyone goes there,” she said, pointing to the crews at the bottom of the mountain helping others who were also cut off by the storm. “Nobody comes here to see us. I am concerned for all the elderly 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 mounds of mud, rocks and rubble left behind by Fiona, whose floodwaters shook the foundations of nearby houses with an earthquake-like force.

At least eight of the 11 communities in Caguas were completely isolated, said Luis González, municipal inspector for recovery and reconstruction.

It was one of at least six municipalities where crews had yet to reach some areas. People there often depend 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 a little cheer by dressing as a clown.

“That’s very important at these times,” he said, pointing out that people never fully recovered from Hurricane Maria. “A lot of PTSD has reared its head these days.”

His huge clown shoes squeaked through the mud as he greeted people, whose faces lit up when 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.