By DÁNICA COTO and ROB GILLIES, Associated Press
CAGUAS, Puerto Rico (AP) — A Category 4 hurricane, Fiona, slammed into Bermuda with heavy rains and strong winds Friday as it passed the island on a path that is forecast to approach northeastern Canada later in the day as a still powerful storm.
Bermuda authorities opened shelters and closed schools and offices before Fiona. Michael Weeks, the national security minister, said there were no reports of major damage. He urged citizens to stay indoors and off the roads, saying, “We’re not out of the woods yet.”
The Canadian Hurricane Center issued a hurricane watch for large coastal areas of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland. The US National Hurricane Center said Fiona should hit the area as a “large and powerful post-tropical cyclone with hurricane-force winds.”
“It certainly has the potential to be one of the most severe systems to hit eastern Canada,” said Ian Hubbard, a meteorologist with the Canadian Hurricane Center in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
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Hubbard said the center of the storm is expected to arrive Saturday morning sometime between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. local time, but winds and rain will arrive late on Friday.
Nova Scotia authorities sent an emergency alert to phones warning of Fiona’s arrival and urging people to say indoors, avoid coastlines, charge devices and have enough supplies for at least 72 hours. Authorities warned of prolonged power outages, wind damage to trees and structures, and coastal flooding and possible road slides.
The US center said Fiona had maximum sustained winds of 130 mph (215 kph) on Friday. Its center was about 475 miles (770 kilometers) south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and it was heading northeast at 35 mph (56 kph).
Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 115 miles (185 kilometers) from the center, and tropical-storm-force winds extended outward up to 345 miles (555 kilometers).
A hurricane warning was in effect for Nova Scotia from Hubbards to Brule; Prince Edward Island; Madeleine Island; and Newfoundland from Parson’s Pond to Francois.
So far, Fiona has been blamed for at least five deaths: 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 storms reach cooler waters, they lose their main source of energy. and become extratropical. But those cyclones can still have hurricane-force winds, albeit with a cold core instead of a warm one and no visible eyes. Its shape may also be different. They lose their symmetrical shape and can look more like a comma.
Bob Robichaud, a warning preparedness meteorologist at the Canadian Hurricane Center, told a news conference that the model projected a “historic” low pressure across the region, which would bring storm surge and rainfall between 10 and 20 centimeters (4 to 8 inches). .
Amanda McDougall, mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, said authorities were preparing a shelter for people to enter before the storm hit.
“We have been through these kinds of events before, but my fear is not that great,” he said. “The impacts are going to be big, real and immediate.”
Meanwhile, the National Hurricane Center said a tropical depression in the southern Caribbean is expected to hit Cuba early Tuesday as a hurricane and then hit southern Florida early Wednesday.
It was located about 615 miles (985 kilometers) east-southeast of Kingston, Jamaica. It had maximum sustained winds of 35 mph (55 kph) and was moving at 13 mph (20 kph).
Before reaching Bermuda, Fiona caused severe flooding and devastation in Puerto Rico, prompting US President Joe Biden to say Thursday that the full force of the federal government is ready to help the territory of the United States recovers.
Biden noted that hundreds of FEMA officials and other federal officials are already in Puerto Rico, where Fiona caused an island-wide blackout.
More than 60% of power customers remained without power Thursday, though efforts were underway to restore power. Many customers were left without water, while local officials said they could not say when service would be fully restored.
As of Friday, hundreds of people in Puerto Rico remained isolated by blocked roads five days after the hurricane hit the island.
At least five landslides covered the narrow road to their community in the steep mountains around the northern city of Caguas. The only way to reach the settlement was to climb over the thick mounds of mud, rocks and debris left behind by Fiona, whose floodwaters shook the foundations of nearby houses with the force of an earthquake.
At least eight of the 11 communities in Caguas were completely isolated, said Luis González, municipal recovery and reconstruction inspector.
It was one of at least six municipalities where crews had yet to reach some areas. People there often rely on neighbors for help, as happened after Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm in 2017 that killed nearly 3,000 people.
Gillies reported from Toronto. Associated Press reporter Maricarmen Rivera Sánchez in San Juan, Puerto Rico, contributed.
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