Hurricane Fiona upgraded to Category 4 as Puerto Rico grapples with fallout

Hurricane Fiona intensified into a Category 4 storm overnight after hitting the Turks and Caicos Islands and causing major damage in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

Meanwhile, a new Tropical Storm Gaston intensified in the Atlantic, with maximum sustained winds increasing to nearly 50 mph, with higher gusts than earlier Wednesday.

The National Hurricane Center warned that the waves produced by Gaston could impact the Azores archipelago in the mid-Atlantic later this week, creating life-threatening surf and current conditions.

As of late Wednesday, Fiona was about 550 miles southwest of Bermuda and was expected to pass west of the area Thursday night, according to the Hurricane Center.

It said the storm had maximum sustained winds of 130 mph and was moving north at 10 mph.

In an update late Wednesday, the center said a hurricane watch and tropical storm warning were in place for the British island territory of Bermuda, which could see 2 to 4 inches of rain.

“Starting Thursday night, the storm surge will cause elevated water levels in windy areas off the coast of Bermuda,” the center said. “Near the coast, the surge will be accompanied by large, damaging waves.”

Fiona has reported multiple deaths so far as Puerto Rico continues to grapple with widespread damage, including a total power outage and water problems.

A 78-year-old man was found dead and a 70-year-old woman was apparently affected by gas from a generator at a home near Las Granjas, a fire department on the island said in a statement. A dead dog was also found at the scene, officials said. All windows and canopy doors at the house were closed, officials said.

As of Tuesday evening, more than 1.1 million customers across the U.S. remained without power, according to online tracker That’s almost a third of the population.

Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi said in a news conference Tuesday that he expects a steady and gradual improvement in power restoration across the island.

However, he warned that more rain increased the likelihood of more flooding and landslides in some areas. Average rainfall on the island is 10 to 16 inches, with the worst-hit areas seeing more than 25 inches, he said.

Pierluisi said he has signed an executive order so residents can get food all over the island.

The devastating impact of the storm comes as Puerto Rico commemorates the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Maria, the deadliest natural disaster on U.S. soil in a century, from which the island is still recovering.

It also unfolded on the anniversary of Hurricane Hugo, which hit Puerto Rico as a Category 3 storm 33 years ago.

As the region now grapples with the aftermath of the new storm, some residents have expressed concerns about coping.

“Puerto Rico wasn’t ready for this or anything,” Mariange Hernandez, a 48-year-old housewife, told The Associated Press.

She said that despite efforts to clear streets and restore power, she doubted her community of about 300 people would receive long-term government support.

“It was only a few days and then they forgot about us,” she said.

FEMA has been assisting with the response to Fiona after President Joe Biden declared a federal emergency in Puerto Rico on Sunday. The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency visited the region on Tuesday to investigate the damage, as the agency announced it would send hundreds of personnel to supplement the response.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency for the island as it dispatched teams to the region.

Joe Stadley, Antonio Planas, Nicole Duarte and Associated Press contributed.

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