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Category 3 Hurricane Fiona now pounding Turks and Caicos

Now a category 3 storm, Hurricane Fiona is pounding Turks and Caicos with heavy rain and winds up to 115 mph and is expected to get stronger, according to the National Hurricane Center. Image courtesy NOAA/NHC

Now a category 3 storm, Hurricane Fiona is pounding Turks and Caicos with heavy rain and winds up to 115 mph and is expected to get stronger, according to the National Hurricane Center. Image courtesy NOAA/NHC

Sept. 20 (UPI) — Hurricane Fiona has strengthened into a Category 3 storm as it pounds Turks and Caicos with heavy rain Tuesday.

Fiona was located 50 miles north of Caicos Island and 795 miles southwest of Bermuda, carrying maximum sustained winds of 115 mph, according to the NHC’s latest update at 5 p.m. EDT.

The storm was moving north-northwest at 8 mph and is expected to strengthen Wednesday night into Thursday morning.

Turks and Caicos remained under a Hurricane Warning, while Bermuda was placed under a Tropical Storm Watch along with the southeastern Bahamas.

“Heavy rains around the center of Fiona will impact the Turks and Caicos through this evening with continued life-threatening flooding. Localized additional flash and urban flooding is possible in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic,” the NHC said in the update.

“A turn toward the north-northeast with an increase in forward speed is expected on Thursday. On the forecast track, the center of Fiona will gradually move away from the Turks and Caicos tonight and Wednesday, and approach Bermuda late on Thursday,” the NHC forecast predicts.

Fiona became a Category 3 hurricane — which meets the definition of a major hurricane — on Tuesday, a day earlier than forecasters expected. The designation applies when a storm’s sustained winds exceed 110 mph.

Fiona made landfall and poured heavy rains on the Dominican Republic on Monday. At least two people died in the severe weather in that country.

The day before, the storm pounded Puerto Rico and cut power to hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. territory.

More than 1 million people in Puerto Rico were still without electricity on Tuesday morning, after enduring Fiona’s powerful winds and drenching rains.

Fiona made landfall in Puerto Rico on Sunday and immediately impacted the island’s power grid.

NHC forecasters have said Fiona is likely to become a Category 4 hurricane — one with winds speeds of at least 130 mph by Thursday.

Fiona is the sixth named tropical system in the Atlantic basin this year, following Alex, Bonnie, Colin, Danielle and Earl.

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