Nervous Puerto Ricans braced on Sunday as Fiona intensified into a hurricane, nearly five years to the day after a hit system tore through the island and claimed thousands of lives.
Fiona could hit the south coast with life-threatening flooding and landslides, forecasters have warned.
“It’s time to act and worry,” said Nino Correa, Puerto Rico’s emergency management commissioner.
Puerto Rico was already feeling the effects of Fiona early Sunday and conditions would only deteriorate, Accuweather said.
Projected track of Hurricane Fiona
Fiona was located about 50 miles south of Ponce, Puerto Rico, Sunday morning and had maximum sustained winds of 80 mph, the National Hurricane Center said. The storm was moving west-northwest at 8 mph.
The center of the storm is expected to move near or over Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory of 3.2 million, Sunday afternoon or evening, the hurricane center said, before moving in. approaching the north coast of the Dominican Republic Sunday evening and Monday.
“Torrential rains and landslides are expected in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic,” the hurricane center said.
After her way through the Caribbean and the Bahamas, Fiona could move on a track to Bermuda, Accuweather said.
“Further strengthening is expected … before reaching the south or southwest coast of Puerto Rico” on Sunday, the center said.
Hurricane warnings were in effect Sunday for Puerto Rico and parts of the Dominican Republic coast.
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How much rain is forecast?
Fiona was expected to drop 12 to 16 inches of rain over eastern and southern Puerto Rico, and up to 25 inches in isolated locations, forecasters said.
The storm could hit towns and villages along the southern coast that are still recovering from a series of powerful earthquakes that struck in 2019.
“These rains will produce flash flooding and life-threatening urban flooding in Puerto Rico and the eastern Dominican Republic, as well as landslides and landslides in areas of higher ground,” the center warned. hurricanes.
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What was the storm that devastated the island?
Fiona won’t be the gigantic system that Hurricane Maria was when it made landfall as a Category 4 storm on Sept. 20, 2017, but it still posed a serious threat, Accuweather said.
Maria destroyed the island’s power grid and caused at least 3,000 deaths.
Thousands of homes, roads and recreation areas have yet to be repaired or rebuilt since Maria devastated the island. The government has only completed 21% of more than 5,500 official post-hurricane projects, and seven of the island’s 78 municipalities report that no projects have started, the Associated Press reported.
“I think all of us Puerto Ricans who lived with Maria have this post-traumatic stress of, ‘What’s going to happen, how long is this going to be, and what needs could we be? confronted? “said resident Danny Hernández.
Hernandez, who works in the capital city of San Juan, said he planned to ride out the storm with his family in the western town of Mayaguez.
Residents stocking up at grocery stores were nervous, Hernandez said. “After Maria, we all experienced scarcity to some degree,” he said.
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Are there power issues?
Hurricane Maria knocked out Puerto Rico’s power grid. The network is still very fragile and being rebuilt; breakdowns are frequent.
In front of Fiona, Luma, the company that operates electricity transmission and distribution, warned of “widespread service interruptions”. Sunday morning, more than 128,700 customers were without electricity.
Will Fiona have a direct impact on the United States?
The potential for a direct impact on the continental United States has diminished since last week, Accuweather said, but the storm could bring dangerous waves and strong rip currents along the eastern seaboard later this week.
How has the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season been going so far?
The Atlantic hurricane season got off to a slow start. For the first time in 25 years, no hurricanes had formed in August and no storms directly affected the United States. The first hurricane of an Atlantic season typically develops on Aug. 11, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
AUGUST CALM:August has not been so devoid of tropical storms since 1997. Is hurricane season over?
The season officially started on June 1 and ends on November 30. The peak of the season is usually around September 17.
Contributor: Doyle Rice, The Associated Press