© Reuters. Workers remove utility poles after Hurricane Fiona in Iguy, Dominican Republic, on September 19, 2022. REUTERS/Ricardo Rojas
By Ivelisse Rivera and Ezequiel Abiu Lopez
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico/Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (Reuters) – Residents were ordered to take shelter in the Turks and Caicos Islands on Tuesday as increasingly powerful Hurricane Fiona slammed into the Caribbean islands. Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
The intensifying Category 2 storm is expected to become a Category 3 event Tuesday afternoon with winds in excess of 111 mph (178 km/h) before passing near the eastern tip of the Turks and Caicos Islands on Tuesday night before heading to the southern Bahamas.
Torrential rain and strong winds followed in the Dominican Republic on Monday after Fiona caused a total power outage in Puerto Rico that killed at least two people and caused catastrophic flooding, Fiona took power as it slid north over warm Caribbean waters. If it becomes a Category 3 storm, it will be the first “major hurricane” of the 2022 season, according to the National Hurricane Center.
In the Turks and Caicos Islands, a British Overseas Territory with 40 low-lying coral islands and a population of about 40,000 about 700 miles southeast of Florida, the government’s National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) told residents of the three eastern islands to take shelter in place , and ordered the business to close.
The agency told residents of Grand Turk, South Caicos and Salt Cay that “all must remain at their residence, in a safe place or in a place of shelter until NEOC issues NATIONAL ALL CLEAR.” Residents are stocking up on food and water as they prepare their shelters. A foreign government has issued a travel alert for the island, a popular tourist destination.
Similar preparations are underway in the eastern Bahamas. Fiona is expected to hit the eastern Bahamas on Wednesday, when it could have reached a Category 4 intensity.
In Puerto Rico, the U.S. territory, residents still faced strong winds, frequent lightning and heavy rain on Monday.
Fiona made landfall in Puerto Rico on Sunday afternoon, pouring up to 30 inches (76.2 centimeters) of rain in some areas, killing at least two people.
The storm came five years after Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria, which triggered the worst power outage in U.S. history and killed 3,000 people.
U.S. President Joe Biden spoke with Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi on Monday, promising to increase the number of support personnel sent to the island in the coming days.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Deanne Criswell will be there on Tuesday.
Nearly 90 percent of Puerto Rico remained without power Monday, according to Poweroutage.us. Officials said it would take days to reconnect the entire island of 3.3 million people.
Puerto Rico’s power grid remains vulnerable despite emergency repairs after Maria, the Center for the New Economy, a think tank in Puerto Rico, said.
Maria was a Category 5 storm in 2017 that left 1.5 million customers without power and destroyed 80 percent of power lines. Thousands of Puerto Ricans still live under makeshift tarpaulin roofs.
Fiona made landfall near Boca Yuma, Dominican Republic, at 3:30 a.m. local time Monday, according to the NHC. The center of the storm reached the northern coast of Hispaniola by noon.
It was the first hurricane to hit the Dominican Republic directly since Jenny wreaked havoc in the eastern part of the country in 2004.