STORM SEASON PEAKS

Homes are flooded on Salinas Beach after the passing of Hurricane Fiona in Salinas, Puerto Rico, Monday, Sept. 19, 2022.
Homes are flooded on Salinas Beach after the passing of Hurricane Fiona in Salinas, Puerto Rico, Monday, Sept. 19, 2022.
Associated Press/Alejandro Granadillo

Up to a few weeks ago, forecasters were commenting on the slow start to the 2022 Atlantic storm season, but with Hurricane Fiona barreling through Puerto Rico, The Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) and neighboring territories this week this, officials say that this is a clear signal that the season is beginning to peak.

Now a category three storm predicted to strengthen even further to a four by Wednesday with wind measurements beyond 130 miles per hour, the storm was battering The TCI even as The Bahamas and Bermuda are preparing for landfall later this week.

TCI Governor Anya Williams reported no human casualties up to mid-morning Tuesday but said “a full assessment will be made when it is safe to do so.” She said that the US coast guard was on standby with helicopters to conduct aerial assessments once Fiona had passed. The HMS Midway from Britain is scheduled to arrive in Providenciales before midnight Tuesday.

Authorities in the Caribbean, meanwhile, have reported three deaths so far from Fiona including a man in Puerto Rico who died while trying to add fuel to a generator while it was running. The Dominican Republic has also lashed by heavy rains and has experienced some amount of flooding, officials said.

Officials in Guadeloupe near Dominica, have declared a state of natural emergency as heavy rains caused massive flooding. One man died in the town of Basseterre when flood waters swept his home away. “In the aftermath of storm Fiona my thoughts go to Guadeloupe, to our compatriot who was swept away and to all those affected. The state of natural disaster will be recognised and the aid fund for overseas territories mobilised,” French President Emmanuel Macron said of one of France’s regional colonies.

As Puerto Ricans try to cope with flood waters as much as four feet high and as authorities struggle to restore power to most of the island, weather experts have pointed to the fact that Fiona has come ashore almost five years to the week when Maria had struck causing untold devastation. And New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced plans to send more than 100 state troopers to PR to assist with recovery and assessment efforts in addition to drones.

As forecasters monitor other possible storm developments, including a fairly well organized tropical wave near Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad in the South Caribbean, people in The Bahamas’ southernmost islands are battening down for the arrival of the storm towards the weekend. Under threat so far are Inagua, Mayaguana, Acklins, Crooked Island, Samana Cay, Long Cay and Ragged Island, all outer southern islands in the archipelago off Florida. Rains from outer bands have already descended on those islands as of Tuesday. Landfall is expected on Friday.

Shelters have already been opened, staffed and stocked even as Bahamians recall the battering and devastation from Hurricane Dorian in 2019 that killed a few hundred people. Government said last week that hundreds more are missing. The storm, the strongest on record in this part of the world, caused around $5 billion in damage.

In the mid-Atlantic, Bermuda which dodged Hurricane Earl earlier this month, authorities say models show that the island of about 70,000 will be impacted.

“Hurricane Fiona is now considered a threat to Bermuda. Its centre is confidently projected to track around 100 miles west of Bermuda in the early hours of Friday morning. Now is the time to start preparations and be mindful of your wind exposure. Hurricane Fiona’s winds will be from the southeast through southwest different from the previous storm. Hurricane force winds are possible. Ddangerous seas and periods of heavy rain are expected from late Thursday, in advance of its closest approach, “ a government announcement stated.

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