By Don Burgess and Ivelisse Rivera
HAMILTON, Bermuda (Reuters) – Hurricane Fiona threatened the Atlantic island of Bermuda on Friday, passing west of British territory on its northward march towards Nova Scotia while offering the potential to become the one of the strongest storms in Canadian history.
Fiona has already battered a string of Caribbean islands earlier in the week, killing at least eight people and knocking out power for nearly all of Puerto Rico’s 3.3 million people during a sweltering heat wave .
Bermudians closed windows and stocked up on groceries and batteries of flashlights as they prepared for the storm, which was expected to come closest to Bermuda on Friday morning. Fiona’s center will move up the Atlantic between Bermuda and the east coast of the United States, but the outer bands of the storm will still hit the territory with strong winds, driving rains and storm surges.
Across the island, people cleared debris from yards and prepared to close storm shutters. Many homes are built with small shuttered windows, slate roofs, and limestone blocks to withstand frequent hurricanes.
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“I’m taking every precaution to stay safe,” said Dean Williams, a resident of the capital Hamilton. “Preparation is key because at its highest intensity we can’t do anything but wait.”
As of 8 p.m. AST (0000 GMT), Fiona had maximum sustained winds of 130 miles per hour (215 km/h) and was approximately 280 miles (455 km) west-southwest of Bermuda and moving towards north-northeast at 20 mph (31 km/h), the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.
This made it a Category 4 hurricane on the five-stage Saffir-Simpson scale, meaning it was capable of producing catastrophic damage.
It was also 1,000 miles (1,610 km) south-southeast of Halifax, the capital of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia.
Fiona is shaping up to be the most powerful storm to reach Canada since Dorian made landfall west of Halifax in September 2019, according to Environment Canada’s government website.
This storm is expected to bring hurricane-force winds and torrential rains to the Atlantic provinces and eastern Quebec from Friday afternoon through Saturday. It seems likely that it will cross the eastern part of Nova Scotia before heading north to Newfoundland and Labrador by Sunday.
A large swath of Atlantic Canada, including parts of Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and eastern Quebec, will feel the impact of the storm.
Like Dorian, Fiona could upgrade to a post-tropical storm, but Dorian was still carrying Category 2 intensity, with sustained winds of 96 mph (155 kph). It toppled century-old trees and caused a major power outage.
And Fiona could pour more rain. Forecasters say areas close to its path could receive up to 200mm of rain, while winds could damage buildings and cause power outages, with storm surges overwhelming coastlines.
The hurricane has already shown its devastating force in Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands, killing at least four people in Puerto Rico, the US Federal Emergency Management Agency said.
US President Joe Biden, during a briefing in New York, said the federal government would fund the removal of debris, the restoration of electricity and water, as well as shelter and food for the next month.
An estimated one million homes and businesses were left without power across the US on Thursday after Fiona struck on Sunday, as people suffocated in the heat and humidity.
Loumarie Rosa, a 26-year-old assistant at a chiropractic clinic, said there was no gas for her generator in her hometown of Hatillo.
“It’s like the earth is on fire,” she said. “We can’t even turn on a fan.”
(Reporting by Don Burgess in Hamilton, Ivelissa Rivera in San Juan, Puerto Rico; Additional reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta and Steve Holland and Frank McGurty in New York; Writing by Jonathan Allen and Daniel Trotta)
Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.