Hurricane Fiona made landfall in the Dominican Republic Monday morning as millions of people in Puerto Rico face flash flooding, mudslides and a power outage across the island.
The National Hurricane Center warned that the Category 1 hurricane is moving into the Atlantic and likely to strengthen. Sailing with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph, Fiona is expected 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 caused torrential rains across much of the island, causing massive flooding and landslides. Island officials have said some roads, bridges and other infrastructure have been damaged or washed away as a result of the downpour.
Most of the island is also without power, according to utility reports tracked by PowerOutage.us. More than 775,000 residents also have no access to clean water.
The last hurricane to hit US territory hit Fiona two days before Maria’s fifth birthday, the devastating storm that killed more than 3,000 people and nearly destroyed the island’s electrical system.
On Monday, Puerto Rico’s governor Pedro Pierluisi called the damage to the homes and fragile infrastructure of the island from the Category 1 storm “catastrophic”.
“In many areas, the flooding is worse than what we saw during Hurricane Maria,” Pierluisi said at a news conference.
“So far, we’ve gotten about a foot of rain, even in areas where they’d never experienced flooding before,” he added.
Heavy rainfall and life-threatening flood risks are expected to continue through Tuesday, the National Weather Service said. The saturation “will also continue to cause mudslides and rock chips in areas with steep terrain.”
Fiona’s strong winds and the ensuing torrent of rainfall knocked out the island’s power grid, leaving the island in a blackout. Officials have said it will take several days to fully restore services to more than a million residents.
Shortly after the hurricane hit on Sunday, Pierluisi said it would be “a matter of days” not months to fully restore the grid — citing the prolonged recovery of power after Hurricane Maria in 2017.
Since then, the island’s electricity crews have been able to restore electricity to about 100,000 customers living in the northeastern region near the capital San Juan, Luma Energy, the island’s private electric utility, wrote on Facebook.
President Biden on Sunday approved an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief.
Adrian Florido contributed reporting.
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