Water is the main concern for residents like Carlos Vega, whose town of Cayey in the mountains of central-eastern Puerto Rico faced not only utility cuts but also partially collapsed highways, an effect of the great flood and more than 2 feet of rain that parts of Puerto Rico were hit.
“(Being without) energy… we can deal with that and we can deal with it. The biggest concern is our water. We can’t live without water,” Vega told CNN on Tuesday.
Fiona also lashed parts of the Turks and Caicos Islands on Tuesday with sustained winds of nearly 125 mph, officials said. That left many areas without power, including in Grand Turk, South Caicos, Salt Cay, North Caicos and Middle Caicos, he said. Anya Williams, the interim governor of the islands. The authorities were able to start visiting various islands and start repairs.
No deaths had been reported in Turks and Caicos as of Wednesday night, Williams said in an update.
Flooding from Fiona left especially critical infrastructure damage in Puerto Rico and then the Dominican Republic, which the storm passed through on Monday. More than 1 million utility customers in the Dominican Republic had no water service as of Wednesday morning, and more than 349,000 customers were without power, according to Maj. Gen. Juan Méndez García, director of the country’s emergency operations center. .
Meanwhile, parts of Puerto Rico, where hundreds of thousands remained without power, hit heat indexes — how the air feels when temperature and humidity combine — of 105 to 109 degrees on Wednesday, according to CNN meteorologist Rob Shackelford.
Storm pressing north and could threaten Bermuda and Atlantic Canada
“Fiona is forecast to be a hurricane-force cyclone through Saturday,” the hurricane center said.
Although the storm is not expected to track near the US East Coast, it could generate 8- to 10-foot onshore waves there through the weekend, CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said Wednesday.
“It’s not a good weekend to go to shore and get in the water; it’s time to stay out of the water,” Myers said of the East Coast.
“Near the coast, the surge will be accompanied by large, destructive waves,” the hurricane center said.
‘We can’t take it anymore’
Many in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico are still dealing with the aftermath of Fiona and will likely face a lengthy process of relief and recovery.
In Nizao, a small town in the southern Dominican Republic, a woman tearfully told CNN affiliate Noticias SIN that Fiona’s winds destroyed her home.
“Thank God my girls (are) safe. I managed to cover them with something and block them with a washing machine,” she told Noticias SIN this week.
Another woman in Nizao cleaning mud from her belongings told Noticias SIN that she was frustrated that floods frequently damage the region. This week, she left all of her belongings behind when the waters flooded in, she said.
“We can’t take it anymore. Every year we lose our bed, our clothes, our food, everything,” the second woman told Noticias SIN.
More than 610 homes in the Dominican Republic have been destroyed and some communities left without help due to the storm, said Garcia, director of the nation’s emergency operations center.
Restoration teams face challenges
The governor expected “a large part of the population” to have power restored by Wednesday night, with the exception of the southern region of the island, which has suffered the most severe damage, he said Tuesday.
But restoration crews faced challenges: Many lines that were thought to have been repaired were temporarily disconnected due to various problems with the equipment, according to Josué Colón, executive director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority.
Crews could also encounter problems that require a pause in work so an already damaged network doesn’t become overloaded, a spokesman for power provider LUMA Energy said Wednesday.
“The community there … (had) severely affected roads and damaged bridges. Water was flooding streets and … other parts of the community (were) inaccessible,” Criswell said during a Wednesday news conference.
“But I also saw a resilient Puerto Rico,” he said. “I met with a woman named Anna, who opened her own house in her own driveway to help create a path for the community. With the bridge being washed away, her house became that path to help provide food. and water to the rest of their community.
The storm is a catastrophic blow to Puerto Rico, which was still recovering in some areas when Hurricane Maria hit the island in 2017, causing widespread infrastructure damage and destroying homes.
The damage caused by Fiona is “devastating” and “catastrophic” in the central, southern and southeastern regions of the island, Pierluisi said Tuesday.
Across the island, more than 800 people were housed in dozens of shelters on Wednesday, according to Puerto Rico Housing Secretary William Rodríguez.
CNN’s Leyla Santiagio in Puerto Rico and CNN’s Robert Shackelford, Jamiel Lynch, Amanda Musa, Chris Boyette, Taylor Ward and Geneva Sands contributed to this report.