The entire island of Puerto Rico was in darkness on Sunday as Hurricane Fiona approached, nearly five years to the day after a hit system tore through US territory.
Fiona, a Category 1 storm, was expected to trigger deadly rains and dangerous mudslides, forecasters said. “Catastrophic flooding” was likely in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, the National Hurricane Center said as the eye of the storm approached Puerto Rico’s southwest coast.
“It’s time to act and worry,” said Nino Correa, Puerto Rico’s emergency management commissioner.
Luma, the company that operates power transmission and distribution, said high winds had disrupted transmission lines, leading to “an island-wide blackout”.
President Joe Biden has declared a state of emergency in the territory, which is home to 3.2 million people.
Projected track of Hurricane Fiona
Fiona was located about 25 miles southwest of Ponce, Puerto Rico, Sunday afternoon and had maximum sustained winds of 85 mph with higher gusts, the hurricane center said. The storm was moving west-northwest at 8 mph.
The center of Fiona would continue to pass near or over southwest and western Puerto Rico Sunday afternoon and evening, the center said. Fiona would then roar closer to the north coast of the Dominican Republic on Sunday evening and Monday before moving near or east of the Turks and Caicos Islands on Tuesday.
“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.
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.
Puerto Rican Governor Pedro Pierluisi said he was ready to declare a state of emergency if necessary and activated the National Guard.
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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 was devastating to the island, killing at least 3,000. Thousands of homes, roads and recreation areas still need to be repaired or rebuilt. 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.
In the southwestern town of El Combate, which is in the storm’s path, hotel co-owner Tomás Rivera worried about the amount of rain that could be unleashed.
Rivera said workers brought bedridden family members to the hotel, concerned about the government’s slow response after Maria. Rivera said he had diesel, gas, food, water and ice on hand. “What we have done is prepare ourselves to be as little dependent on central government as possible,” he said.
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How important is the electrical network?
Hurricane Maria knocked out Puerto Rico’s power grid. The network is still very fragile and being rebuilt; breakdowns are frequent.
Luma, the company that operates power transmission and distribution, warned on Sunday of “widespread service interruptions”. In the afternoon, the whole island was plunged into darkness. “The current weather conditions are extremely hazardous and hamper our ability to assess the bigger picture,” the company said. It could take several days to fully restore power, Luma said.
Health centers operated with generators, some of which broke down. Health Secretary Carlos Mellado said crews were working to repair generators at the Comprehensive Cancer Center.
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?
Fiona became the third hurricane of the Atlantic season when it formed on Sunday. The season is starting slowly. 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