As an already catastrophic Hurricane Fiona set its sights on the Turks and Caicos Islands after making landfall in the Dominican Republic and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, the government of the British territory just south of Florida issued shutdown orders for three of its low-lying islands.
Businesses on the islands of South Caicos, Salt Cay and Grand Turk, the capital, were all ordered to close by 3 p.m. Monday. Residents were told they must be off the roads and indoors by 5 p.m., according to a notice issued by the National Emergency Operations Center.
“All persons are to remain indoors at their residence, place of safety or where they seek shelter until NEOC issues NATIONAL ALL CLEAR,” the agency said in an advisory.
The center of Fiona, which slammed into the Dominican Republic about 3:30 a.m. Monday as a Category 1 storm with 85 mph winds, is forecast to pass near or to the east of the Turks and Caicos on Tuesday. Islanders are expected to experience hurricane conditions, with 4 to 6 inches of rain and some areas seeing as much as 8 inches. The rainfall is expected to be heavier in the more eastern islands, causing flooding on roads and properties.
On Monday, boaters in South Caicos were securing boats while residents were stocked up on supplies. Shelters were opened on the island, whose landlines went down in 2017 after Hurricane Maria and have not worked since.
“Swells generation by Fiona are beginning to affect the Turks and Caicos Islands,” the Turks and Caicos Islands Airport Authority sad Monday in a statement. “These swells will continue to spread westward across the southwestern Atlantic toward the central and northwester Bahamas and the U.S. east coast through midweek. These conditions could cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.”
Located in the Atlantic Ocean at the southern tip of the Bahamas island chain, the Turks and Caicos is located about midway between the Bahamas and the island of Hispaniola that Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic. An archipelago with eight main islands and a population under 40,000, the tourist-dependent chain is about 190 miles from the northern coast of Haiti.
In the nearby Bahamas, only one island is expected to be affected by Fiona, Capt. Stephen Russell, head of the National Emergency Management Authority, told the Miami Herald. Around 2 p.m. Tuesday, the storm is expected to be 200 miles east of Mayaguana, the easternmost island of the Bahamas, which is larger than the island of New Providence where the capital of Nassau is located, but has only 173 residents, Russell said.
“They will feel some tropical storm force winds and rain from that system,” he said. “It will be about 30 to 40 mph; they should be able to cope with that.”
Still on Monday, the Bahamas activated shelters on the island and a mail boat was sent to Mayaguana with supplies. “They are in good shape,” Russell said.
Over the weekend, the Bahamas canceled all leave for members of its Defense Force in anticipation of Fiona, which pummeled both Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic with heavy rains and winds.
In Haiti, authorities remain on alert and said it is too early to say if the disaster-prone nation managed to dodge a bullet. With experts expecting heavy rains in the northern regions of Haiti, interim Prime Minister Ariel Henry appealed for calm Sunday night, amid days of violent protests and looting.
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