Hurricane Fiona batters Turks and Caicos as a Category 3 storm
By The New York Times
Hurricane Fiona battered the Turks and Caicos Islands as a Category 3 storm Tuesday, days after it knocked out Puerto Rico’s power grid and drenched parts of the Dominican Republic with heavy rain, the National Hurricane Center said.
The storm, which is expected to strengthen over the next few days as it moves north, has had sustained maximum winds of 115 mph since early Tuesday, the hurricane center said.
As of 11 a.m., it was about 40 miles north-northwest of Grand Turk Island and the other eastern islands of Turks and Caicos, subjecting them to hurricane conditions, the center said.
The center of the hurricane was forecast to move near the eastern Turks and Caicos on Tuesday and drench the islands with 4-8 inches of rain. It was expected to veer away from the islands later in the day, turning north by today and approaching Bermuda by late Thursday, the center said.
The effects of the storm continued to be felt in the Dominican Republic, where up to 4 inches of rain were forecast Tuesday. Life-threatening flash flooding continued in the eastern portion of the country, where as much as 20 inches of rain have fallen since Monday, the center said. The storm was also expected to bring 1-4 inches of rain to Puerto Rico on Tuesday after drenching portions of the island with up to 35 inches of rain since Sunday.
The heavy rainfall brought with it the potential for life-threatening flash flooding in Turks and Caicos, areas of the Dominican Republic, and southern Puerto Rico, the center said.
A tropical storm warning was in effect for the southeastern Bahamas.
Forecasters did not anticipate it nearing the East Coast of the United States, but the hurricane center said that it could generate swells causing life-threatening surf and rip currents there.
The outer bands of the storm wrecked Puerto Rico’s power grid Sunday, causing what the governor there called “catastrophic” damage. On Tuesday, nearly 1.2 million people were still without power, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks interruptions.
Puerto Rico’s power company, LUMA, warned that full restoration could take several days.
By Monday afternoon, Fiona had moved northwestward into the Atlantic Ocean and continued to strengthen after battering the northeastern coast of the Dominican Republic.
The storm was blamed for at least one fatality in Puerto Rico, where a man died while trying to operate a generator, government officials said. The man’s wife was severely burned but survived, the officials said. Another death was attributed to the storm in Guadeloupe, which was struck by the storm Saturday. At least two deaths were attributed to the storm in the Dominican Republic, according to the government, and some 13,000 people there have been displaced.
The Dominican Republic’s eastern provinces, home to one of the largest tourism industries in the Caribbean, took the brunt of the storm early Monday. Fiona brought 90 mph winds and heavy rain that set off mudslides, shuttered resorts and damaged highways, officials said.
Storm surge was anticipated to raise water levels by as much as 1 to 3 feet above normal tide in coastal areas hit by onshore winds in the Dominican Republic, the hurricane center said in its forecast Tuesday.
The Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June through November, had a relatively quiet start, with only three named storms before Sept. 1 and none during August, the first time that has happened since 1997. Storm activity picked up in early September with Danielle and Earl, which formed within a day of each other.
The links between hurricanes and climate change have become clearer with each passing year. Data shows that hurricanes have become stronger worldwide over the past four decades. A warming planet can expect stronger hurricanes over time and a higher incidence of the most powerful storms — though the overall number of storms may drop, because factors like stronger wind shear could keep some weaker storms from forming.
Hurricanes are also becoming wetter because there is more water vapor in the warmer atmosphere; storms such as Hurricane Harvey in 2017 produced far more rain than they would have without human effects on the climate, scientists have suggested. Also, rising sea levels are contributing to higher storm surges, the most destructive elements of tropical cyclones.
In early August, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued an updated forecast for the rest of the season, which still called for an above-normal level of activity.
In it, they predicted the season could include 14 to 20 named storms, with six to 10 turning into hurricanes that could sustain winds of at least 74 mph. Three to five of those could strengthen into what the agency calls major hurricanes — Category 3 or stronger — with winds of at least 111 mph.
Last year, there were 21 named storms, after a record-breaking 30 in 2020. For the past two years, meteorologists have exhausted the list of names used to identify storms during the Atlantic hurricane season, an occurrence that has happened only one other time, in 2005.