Hurricane Fiona made landfall on Puerto Rico’s southwest coast on Sunday, knocking down power grids and ripping asphalt off roads and throwing pieces around.
EconomyHeavy flooding with up to 30 inches is possible in eastern and southern Puerto Rico and threatens to dump “historic” levels of rain.
“The damage we are seeing is devastating,” said Governor Pedro Pierlucci.
“I urge people to stay in their homes,” said William Miranda Torres, mayor of the northern city of Caguas, where at least one major landslide was reported, in which water fell into a large slab of broken asphalt and a creek. went.
The storm also razed a bridge in the central mountain town of Utuado, which police say was installed by the National Guard after Hurricane Maria hit in 2017.
The storm’s sighting was “near the southeast coast of the Dominican Republic,” the National Hurricane Center. informed of Just before 11 p.m. local time. “Heavy rainfall and devastating flooding continue across most of Puerto Rico.”
In a statement to CBS News Sunday night, Federal Emergency Management Agency director Dean Criswell said FEMA was “actively supporting” Puerto Rico and “promptly deploying hundreds of FEMA personnel before the storm hits.” Gave.”
“Our focus right now is on life-saving efforts and responding to urgent needs such as power restoration,” Criswell said.
Fiona strikes the anniversary of Hurricane Hugo, which struck Puerto Rico 33 years ago as a Category 3 hurricane.
Hurricane clouds covered the entire island and tropical storm-force winds were extending up to 140 miles from Fiona’s center.
US President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency in the US territory as the storm moved closer to the southwest corner of the island.
Luma, the company that operates electricity transmission and distribution, said inclement weather, including winds of up to 80 mph, has disrupted transmission lines, causing “a blackout across the island”.
“The current weather conditions are extremely dangerous and are hindering the ability to evaluate the full situation,” it said, adding that it could take several days for power to be fully restored.
The health centers were running on generators and some of them had failed. Health Secretary Carlos Melado said personnel were working to repair generators at the Comprehensive Cancer Center as quickly as possible.
Fiona struck just two days before the anniversary of Hurricane Maria, a devastating Category 4 hurricane that struck on September 20, 2017, destroying the island’s power grid and killing nearly 3,000 people.
More than 3,000 homes still have only one blue wire as a roof, and the infrastructure is weak.
“I think all of us Puerto Ricans who have lived through Maria have that post-traumatic stress of, ‘What’s going to happen, how long is this going to last and what needs are we going to face? ‘” said Danny Hernandez, who works in the capital of San Juan but plans to weather the storm with his parents and family in the western city of Mayaguez.
He said the atmosphere in the supermarket was gloomy as he and others had stocked up before the storm struck.
“After Maria, we all experienced some degree of scarcity,” he said.
The storm was forecast in cities and towns along Puerto Rico’s southern coast, which have yet to fully recover from a string of strong earthquakes that began in late 2019.
Authorities reported several road closures across the island as trees and small landslides blocked access.
More than 780 people, along with some 80 pets, had sought refuge across the island as of Saturday night, most of them in the southern coast.
Puerto Rico’s power grid was ravaged by Hurricane Maria and remains vulnerable with recent reconstruction. Jam is an everyday occurrence.
In the southwest city of El Combet, hotel co-owner Tomas Rivera said he was prepared, but worried about the “heavy” amount of rain he expected. He said a nearby wildlife shelter was extremely quiet.
“There are thousands of birds here, and they are nowhere to be seen,” he said. “Even the birds have sensed what’s coming, and they’re preparing.”
Rivera said his staff brought bedridden family members to the hotel, where they have stockpiled diesel, gasoline, food, water and ice, noting how slow the government responded after Hurricane Maria.
“What we have done is prepare ourselves to be as less dependent on the central government as possible,” he said.
It’s a sentiment shared by 70-year-old Ana Cordova, who arrived at a shelter in the northern coastal town of Loiza on Saturday after buying loads of food and water.
“I don’t trust them,” she said, referring to the government. “I lost faith in what happened after Hurricane Maria.”
Puerto Rico’s governor, Pedro Pierlusi, activated the National Guard as the sixth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season approached.
“What worries me the most is the rain,” said Ernesto Morales, a forecaster for the National Weather Service in San Juan.
Fiona was predicted to fall between 12 and 16 inches of rain in eastern and southern Puerto Rico, with up to 25 inches of rain in isolated places. Morales noted that in 2017 Hurricane Maria covered 40 inches.
Pierlucci announced on Sunday that public schools and government agencies would remain closed on Monday.
Fiona was forecast to swipe the Dominican Republic and then northern Haiti and the Turks and Caicos Islands on Monday with the threat of heavy rain. This could threaten the far southern tip of the Bahamas on Tuesday.
A Hurricane Warning was posted for the east coast of the Dominican Republic from Cabo Cosado to Cabo Frances Viejo.
Officials said Fiona had previously battered the eastern Caribbean, killing one person in the French region of Guadeloupe after floods swept away her home. The storm also damaged roads, uprooted trees and destroyed at least one bridge.
Saint Kitts and Nevis also reported flooding and downed trees, but announced that its international airport would reopen on Sunday afternoon. Dozens of customers were still without electricity or water, according to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency.
In the eastern Pacific, Tropical Storm Madeline was forecast to bring heavy rain and flooding to parts of southwestern Mexico. The storm was centered about 155 miles south-southwest of Cabo Corrientes on Sunday morning, with maximum winds of 45 mph.