By Aya Elamroussi and Alaa Elassar, CNN
Updated: Thu, 22 Sep 2022 21:00:42 GMT
More than a million people in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic are without power or running water again Thursday as crews work to repair critical utilities disabled by Hurricane Fiona, which is now a Category 4 monster heading toward Bermuda.
The first major hurricane of this year's Atlantic season has killed at least five people across the Caribbean: one in Guadeloupe, two in Puerto Rico and two in the Dominican Republic.
"This was something incredible that we've never seen before," Ramona Santana in Higüey, Dominican Republic, told CNN en Español. "We're in the streets with nothing, no food, no shoes, clothes, just what's on your back. ... We don't have anything. We have God, and the hope help will come."
Now packing sustained winds of 130 mph, the center of Fiona is due to pass just west of Bermuda early Friday, with conditions starting to deteriorate Thursday, said CNN meteorologist Robert Shackelford. The island nation is under a hurricane warning; Americans are warned not to travel there, and relatives of US government personnel may leave, the State Department said.
"The National Hurricane Center is certain that Bermuda will experience tropical-storm-force winds," Shackelford said. "Once Fiona passes by Bermuda, the storm is forecast to impact Nova Scotia by Saturday afternoon."
In the Canadian province, residents should prepare for tropical storm-like or even hurricane-like conditions starting as early as Friday evening by securing outdoor items, trimming trees, charging cell phones and creating an emergency kit, said Jason Mew, director of the emergency management office. Shelters will be open for those experiencing homelessness and anyone else in need, he said.
The Canadian Hurricane Centre has issued a hurricane watch for Nova Scotia from Hubbards to Brule, Prince Edward Island, Isle-de-la-Madeleine, and the coast of Newfoundland from Parson's Pond to Port aux Basques.
Hurricane Fiona "could be Canada's version of Sandy," Canadian forecasters warned, comparing the size and intensity as well as the combination of a hurricane and a more winter-like storm such as a nor'easter.
A tropical storm watch has also been issued for several coastlines in Atlantic Canada, including from west of Brule to Cap Madeleine, Quebec, and Anticosti Island.
Residents in Atlantic Canada need to be prepared for a long period of utility outages and structural damage to buildings, according to Environment Canada, Canada's national weather service.
"Fiona will be historic for Atlantic Canada," said Brian Tang, atmospheric science professor at the University of Albany.
Meanwhile, a developing storm poised to be named Hermine could become a monstrous threat to the US Gulf Coast by next week, forecast models showed.
In Puerto Rico, where Fiona delivered flooding rains and an islandwide blackout as it made landfall Sunday, more than 450,000 people lacked or had intermittent water service, according to the government's emergency portal system.
As of Thursday, 495,000 customers, about 38%, have electricity in Puerto Rico, according to LUMA Energy, which operates the island's power grid.
About 890,000 customers, or 67% of all users, now have running water, according to Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority Executive President Doriel Pagán Crespo.
In the Dominican Republic, where Fiona moved onto land early Monday, 725,246 customers remain without running water and more than 210,000 homes and businesses were dark Wednesday, said Maj. Gen. Juan Méndez García, director of the country's emergency operations center.
More than 2,260 homes were destroyed, and some communities were cut off from aid, he said.
Electricity problems dog Puerto Rico
As Fiona hit the Dominican Republic in the middle of the night, Iverice Viera rushed in waist-deep floodwater to wake up her neighbors in Higüey, she said.
She's now trying to dry out her belongings.
"The rooms are empty. I had to throw away a lot. There's no electricity or water to wash anything," Viera told CNN en Español.
Puerto Rico, in the meantime, was making some progress on the relief front.
President Joe Biden approved a major disaster declaration Wednesday for the US territory, FEMA said. The move allows residents to access grants for temporary housing and home repairs as well as low-interest loans to cover uninsured property losses.
"This ensures that our people will have access to additional help from FEMA to recover from the damage caused by this event," Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi said in a tweet.
But crews have faced setbacks in restoring power. Equipment problems have temporarily knocked lines believed to have been repaired back offline, Josué Colón, executive director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, said Wednesday.
Fiona hit almost exactly five years after Hurricane Maria plunged the island into an extended blackout.
Across the island, more than 800 people were housed in dozens of shelters Wednesday, according to Puerto Rico's housing secretary, William Rodriguez.
New York City's mayor has deployed staff from city agencies to Puerto Rico to help officials surveying damage.
"The team will include representatives from New York City Emergency Management (NYCEM), New York City Department of Buildings, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, and the New York City Department of Design and Construction," according to a news release from the mayor's office.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced Thursday his authorization of aid and recovery efforts for Puerto Rico, including the deployment of 74 New Jersey State Troopers and a civilian medical doctor.
Fiona also menaced parts of the Turks and Caicos on Tuesday, and many areas of the British territory were still without power Wednesday, namely on Grand Turk, South Caicos, Salt Cay, North Caicos and Middle Caicos, said Anya Williams, acting governor of the islands.
Officials there were relieved no one was killed in the storm, they said as they began visiting islands and making repairs.