Hurricane Fiona made landfall in the Dominican Republic on Monday morning, as millions in Puerto Rico face flash flooding, mudslides and an island-wide blackout.
The National Hurricane Center warned that the Category 1 hurricane is moving into the Atlantic and is likely to strengthen. Fiona, which is traveling with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph, is forecast to travel near or east of the Turks and Caicos Islands as early as Monday night.
In Puerto Rico, the full The extent of the damage is still unclear as the storm has unleashed torrential rains across much of the island, causing massive flooding and landslides. Island officials have said that some roads, bridges and other infrastructure have been damaged or washed away as a result of the downpour.
Most of the island also remains without power, according to utility companies’ reports tracked by PowerOutage.us. More than 775,000 residents also have no access to clean water.
The latest hurricane to batter the US territory, Fiona struck two days before the fifth anniversary of Maria, the devastating storm that killed more than 3,000 people and nearly destroyed the island’s electricity system.
On Monday, Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi called the damages to the island’s housing and fragile infrastructure from the Category 1 storm “catastrophic.”
“In many areas, flooding is worse than what we saw during Hurricane Maria,” Pierluisi said during a press briefing.
“So far we’ve gotten about 30 inches of rain, even in areas where they had never experienced flooding,” he added.
Heavy rainfall and life-threatening flooding risks are expected to last through Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service. The saturation “will also continue to trigger mudslides and rockfall in areas of steep terrain.”
Fiona’s powerful winds and the subsequent deluge of rainfall knocked out the island’s power grid, throwing the island into a blackout. Officials have said it will take several days to fully restore service to over a million residents.
Shortly after the hurricane struck on Sunday, Pierluisi said it would be a “matter of days,” and not months, to fully restore the grid — referring to the drawn-out power restoration after Hurricane Maria in 2017.
Since then, the island’s power crews were able to restore electricity to about 100,000 customers living in the northeast region near the capital San Juan, Luma Energy, the island’s private electric utility, wrote on Facebook.
President Biden has approved an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico on Sunday, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts.
Adrian Florido contributed reporting.
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