Hurricane Fiona's destructive path continued through Turks and Caicos
After dealing a devastating blow to Puerto Rico’s power grid and carving a path of deadly damage across other Caribbean islands, the Turks and Caicos were the latest islands to suffer the storm’s wrath.
As Category 4 Hurricane Fiona chugged along across the Atlantic on Wednesday, the destruction that was left behind across its latest target, the Turks and Caicos, was coming to light. Hurricane Fiona slammed the Turks and Caicos Tuesday as a Category 3 storm, continuing its path of destruction through the Caribbean.
The eye of the storm brushed past the main island of the archipelago, Grand Turk, with top wind speeds of 115 mph, delivering heavy rainfall and life-threatening flooding after devastating Puerto Rico.
Video of the storm on Tuesday showed strong winds tearing at palm trees, a heavy curtain of rain in the backdrop.
By Wednesday evening, Fiona had traveled north of the islands and strengthened into a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph and hurricane-force winds extending outward up to 70 miles. It's forecast to continue moving away from Turks and Caicos and toward Bermuda.
Premier Washington Misick, who had traveled to the United Kingdom to attend Queen Elizabeth II's funeral, urged residents to follow the advice and warnings given by officials and to make the necessary preparations to protect family and property.
Fallen trees lay over the Ports of Call Resort entrance after the passage of Hurricane Fiona in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Vivian Tyson)
No additional deaths were reported on the archipelago as a result of Fiona, though officials had noted that telecommunications on Grand Turk had been severely affected by the storm, The Associated Press reported.
Officials have blamed at least five fatalities in the northern Caribbean on Fiona -- two in Puerto Rico, one in Guadeloupe and two in the Dominican Republic.
Another 670 people in Puerto Rico and nearly 800 people in the Dominican Republic were rescued amid the widespread flooding and damage, according to officials.
Island-wide blackouts were reported on Grand Turk and other islands in the archipelago, and Anya Williams, the deputy governor of the territory, said in a broadcast that 165 people were in shelters across the islands.
The storm had also plunged nearly the entire island of Puerto Rico into darkness just days before the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria's landfall. At the height of the blackouts, roughly 90% of electric customers on the island were without power. By Thursday morning, that percentage had fallen to around 65%, according to PowerOutage.US, as the total number of outages dropped below 1 million.
Excessive heat warnings were in effect for northern parts of Puerto Rico, including the capital of San Juan on Thursday. Other parts of the island were under a heat advisory.
Temperatures in the upper 80s were forecast around San Juan, with AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures forecast to approach 100 F there on Friday. Temperatures in San Juan topped out at 94 degrees on Thursday.
The situation echoed the devastation of the electric grid caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017. LUMA Energy, the private energy company that was contracted by the Puerto Rican government to take over the island's power transmission and distribution system in 2021, faced heavy criticism over the summer, with demonstrators in July calling on the government to cancel its contract due to chronic power outages and consistent rate hikes, Reuters reported.
Puerto Rico's Energy Bureau released a report in late August that showed an increase in the duration of power outages per customer for every month since January this year, averaging about 21 hours. It added there had been no improvement in the frequency of outages either, though LUMA officials have said there have been 30% fewer power outages this year compared to the last, according to the AP.
Fifteen months following the start of the contract, LUMA told CBS News it's still in the rebuilding phase.
The crash of the power grid following Fiona did nothing to lighten criticism.
"Puerto Rico's recovery as to the rebuilding of the power grid is now not a matter or question of money, of assistance," Former Puerto Rico Senator Ramon Luis-Nieves told CNN. "The government has already appropriated more than $10 million to rebuild and really reconstruct a new grid for Puerto Rico. The problem is that from that 10 billion, only $40 million has been really spent and now we have seen no changes to the actual grid, to the operations on the grid. There has been no significant rebuilding five years after Maria."
Luis-Nieves added that it is "an issue of red tape [and a] lack of willingness to do what's required to start the rebuilding process."
Manuel Crespo, a news reporter and weather anchor for TeleOnce, told AccuWeather earlier this week that it's as though five years have not passed since Hurricane Maria's destruction on the island after witnessing the struggles of communities in southwestern parts of the island.
As Fiona continues to trek northward, a hurricane warning was issued for Bermuda and tropical storm watches were upgraded to warnings. The Category 4 hurricane remains hundreds of miles from the archipelago, moving at a speed of 13 mph as of Thursday morning.
AccuWeather forecasters expect Fiona to spare Bermuda from its worst, likely delivering a sideswipe, before setting course and aiming directly for Atlantic Canada.
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