The National Hurricane Center says that Hurricane Fiona hit the coast of Puerto Rico near Punta Tocon at 3:20 p.m. EDT on Sunday with winds of 85 miles per hour. A 5 p.m. update from the center said that the hurricane is already causing catastrophic flooding as it moves west of Puerto Rico and toward the Dominican Republic.
The hurricane center says that 12 to 18 inches, with a local maximum of 30 inches, of rain are likely, especially in the east and south of Puerto Rico. Nearby, the northern and eastern parts of the Dominican Republic are likely to get 4–8 inches of rain, and the northeast coast could get up to 12 inches.
The hurricane center said, “These rains will produce life-threatening and catastrophic flash and urban flooding across Puerto Rico and the eastern Dominican Republic, along with mudslides and landslides in areas of higher terrain,” Sunday night, the National Weather Service issued a flash flood emergency for Sectors San Felipe and Mosquito in Salinas County because of heavy rain.
According to the National Weather Service, the area has already gotten 10 to 15 inches of rain, and another 2 to 4 inches are possible. Heavy rain in Salinas County has already caused multiple rescues in swift water, and the Weather Service is telling people to be careful and “move to a higher spot right away.
Do not try to go anywhere unless you have to leave because of flooding or evacuation order.” PowerOutage.us says that all of Puerto Rico lost power early Sunday as the Category 1 storm got closer to the islands. On the east side of the territory, many rivers are in moderate to primary flood stages.
One river in the southeast has risen more than 12 feet in less than seven hours. It is now over 25 feet high, breaking the previous record of 24.79 feet, which was set in 2017 during Hurricane Maria. Hurricane Fiona is the third storm of the Atlantic Hurricane Season of 2022. It is expected to become a major hurricane, a storm of Category 3 or higher, east of the Bahamas in about 48 hours.
Some parts of the Dominican Republic could be hit by a tropical storm in the next few hours. By early Tuesday, the Turks and Caicos Islands and details of the southeastern Bahamas could also be affected. The Turks and Caicos and the Southeastern Bahamas, including the Acklins, Crooked Island, Long Cay, the Inaguas, Mayaguana, and the Ragged Islands, were warned about a tropical storm by the Bahamas government.
The effects of the storm have already been seen: At least one person has died in the French territory of Guadeloupe’s capital, Basse-Terre, according to the vice president of the territory’s environmental agency, who also said that flooding had destroyed the city. Hurricane hits islands and knocks out power in Puerto Rico.
In a tweet, Puerto Rico’s governor, Pedro Pierluisi, confirmed a power outage across the territory. He also said that the entire electric system was out of service and that the proper steps were being taken to fix the problem. Pierluisi says that the Puerto Rico power grid is run by the Authority of Electric Energy and LUMA Energy. They are still working on the island-wide power outage affecting almost 1.5 million customers.
The blackout happened after hours of power outages that got worse and worse. It happened five years after Hurricane Maria destroyed Puerto Rico’s power grid in September 2017, leaving many people without electricity for months. But officials have said it will not be the same as the last time:
Abner Gomez, the head of public safety and crisis management at LUMA Energy, said not long before the lights went out that utility workers planned to fix and restore electricity with the help of local government agencies. Gomez said, “This is not Maria. This hurricane will not be Maria,”
Sunday morning, President Joe Biden signed an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico. This frees up federal resources, like the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to help with disaster relief and emergency response. Anne Bink, FEMA’s Assistant Administrator for Response and Recovery, told CNN on Sunday that more than 300 FEMA responders are working “hand and glove” with the Commonwealth and their emergency management system on the ground.
“Our heart goes out to the residents that are again going through another catastrophic event five years later,” Bink said, noting that Hurricane Fiona hit close to the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Maria. Bink said that FEMA’s response has two parts. One is to ensure critical facilities have emergency power and energy, and the other is to set up a command and control structure for things like search and rescue, emergency power generation, and long-term needs once the island starts to recover.
The National Weather Service office in San Juan says that Fiona’s winds are expected to get stronger along the coast and that things will worsen Sunday afternoon and evening. The government has already dealt with one landslide:
Around 8 p.m. ET on Saturday, a landslide occurred at an apartment complex in Guaynabo. Fire and public safety officials were called to the scene. At first, there were no reports of injuries. The governor said that around 120 shelters with 25,000 beds had been opened for people in need.
Classes have been canceled for Monday, and government workers, with the exception of emergency workers, should also stay home. A hurricane warning, which means that hurricane conditions are expected, was given for Puerto Rico, including the islands of Vieques and Culebra.
This warning was later expanded to include the eastern Dominican Republic from Cabo Caucedo to Cabo Frances Viejo. From Cabo Frances Viejo west to Puerto Plata, the northern coast of the Dominican Republic was under a hurricane watch on Sunday morning. This means that hurricane conditions are possible in the next 48 hours.