Antigua and Barbuda’s government closed all schools on Friday as the island nation prepared for the arrival of Tropical Storm Fiona which was expected to impact the federation later in the day, officials said.
Commercial banks will pull down the shutters from noon, hospitals have cancelled non-emergency surgeries and other services, while state offices will also close early Friday as well.
Local weather officials say the storm will arrive in the evening and will likely dump tons of rain on the two islands as it was packing winds of up to 60 miles per hour, not yet a category one storm. Nevertheless, officials are taking no chances as they urge citizens to take all precautions.
International forecasters say the storm is headed to the Eastern Caribbean and will impact a number of islands including Puerto Rico, The US and British Virgin Islands, The Turks and Caicos Islands and Hispaniola which includes Haiti and The Dominican Republic.
The storm is the first major one of the season that could directly impact and affect CARICOM and neighboring countries as the 2022 hurricane season reaches its peak and most dangerous period.
People in St. Kitts-Nevis, Montserrat, Anguilla, The Dutch territories of Saba, St. Maarten and St. Eustatius as well as the French colonies of St. Martin and Guadeloupe should all prepare for the worst and be fully alert, officials said.
And both regional and international airlines have cancelled or rescheduled a number of flights including Caribbean Airlines, island hopper LIAT out of Antigua and serving nearby islands as well as WINAIR. Others have already followed suit. LIAT is operating a much scaled down service with only two planes following its spectacular collapse a few years ago. Its fortunes were also severely hampered by the near global air travel shut down in early 2020.
Meanwhile, The Bahamas which is yet to recover from the battering inflicted by Hurricane Dorian in 2019, is also preparing is citizens for Fiona as tracking models show that it will brush the southeastern portion of the archipelago, impacting Crooked Island, Acklins, Mayaguana and any nearby land masses. Landfall is expected by Monday.
“We’re looking at pretty gusty winds, squally rainfall conditions at this time. Based on the current track, now this could change.” Forecaster Ian McKenzie told the Tribune newspaper. : “In terms of the southeast Bahamas we are asking residents to continue to monitor the progress of this system extremely closely, and also to be mindful that we are now in the peak of the season. And it only takes one storm to really devastate us. So although the season has been relatively quiet based on the projected forecast, we’re still in the hurricane season,” he said. Dorian had caused close to $5 billion in damage, Prime Minister Phillip Davis has said.