Hurricane Fiona intensified into a Category 3 storm early Tuesday morning, according to the National Hurricane Center, becoming the first major hurricane of the Atlantic season and expected to intensify after devastating parts of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in updates at 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. ET that Fiona has strengthened into a Category 3 hurricane and has maximum sustained winds of about 115 mph.
President Luis Abenader said the storm caused widespread power outages and floods in Puerto Rico after making landfall over the weekend and causing “significant” damage in the Dominican Republic.
At least three deaths have been linked to the storm so far, two in Puerto Rico and one in the Dominican Republic.
The NHC added that Fiona is expected to get stronger over the next couple of days as it approaches the Turks and Caicos Islands.
The NHC said hurricane warnings – where a hurricane is expected – are in effect for the Turks and Caicos Islands.
The NHC said a tropical storm warning – which is less severe than a hurricane warning – was also issued for the southeastern Bahamas.
What to watch
Fiona is expected to continue moving across the Caribbean. Residents of the three East Turks and Caicos islands were told to take shelter and businesses closed in anticipation of the storm’s arrival. The National Health Commission said those in Bermuda should monitor the hurricane’s progress. Fiona is not expected to make landfall over the US mainland, although the NHC said swellings from Fiona could affect the East Coast during the middle of the week. These can produce “life-threatening surfing that disrupts existing conditions”.
Governor Pedro Pierluisi said Fiona left nearly all of Puerto Rico without power when it made landfall on Sunday and caused “catastrophic” damage. Little progress has been made to restore power to the island, and the vast majority of the 1.5 million customers followed have been blackouts. Ours were still without power until Tuesday morning. It is expected that the issue will take days to resolve. The island is still recovering from the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria last year, and President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency after it hit Fiona Sunday, authorizing disaster relief efforts from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The White House said more than 300 federal workers are already helping with the response and recovery. FEMA Director Deanne Criswell is scheduled to travel to Puerto Rico on Tuesday to assess additional support needed.
Fiona is the first major hurricane – Category 3 and above – of the 2022 Atlantic season, defying early expectations that the season would be busy and severe. Scientists widely agree that human-driven climate change is leading to an increase in severe and frequent storms, as well as other extreme weather events such as heat waves and floods. Experts expect this nature to increase more frequently and in intensity in the future as the warming continues.
‘Disaster’: Hurricane Fiona causes power outages and massive flooding in Puerto Rico (Forbes)
Weather-related disasters have increased fivefold over the past 50 years, according to the United Nations Meteorological Agency (Forbes)
On the anniversary of Hurricane Maria, the storm leaves Puerto Rico in the dark (The New York Times)