Hurricane Fiona makes landfall on Puerto Rico, knocking out power to island
The entire island of Puerto Rico was without power on Sunday as Hurricane Fiona made landfall and threatened to cause “catastrophic flooding” and landslides before barreling toward the Dominican Republic, a government agency said.
The center of the storm made landfall on the southwestern coast of Puerto Rico near Punta Tocon at 3:20 p.m. ET (1920 GMT) with maximum sustained winds of about 85 miles per hour (140 kilometers per hour), clearing the threshold for a Category 1 hurricane, the National Hurricane Center said.
Electricity was out across the island of 3.3 million people, LUMA Energy, operator of the island's grid and the Puerto Rico power authority said in a statement. LUMA said restoring power fully could take several days.
Puerto Rico's ports have been closed and flights out of the main airport canceled. Torrential rains and mudslides were also forecast for the Dominican Republic as the storm progresses northwestward, with the Turks and Caicos Islands likely facing tropical storm conditions on Tuesday, the NHC said.
“These rains will produce life-threatening and catastrophic flash flooding and urban flooding across Puerto Rico and the eastern Dominican Republic, along with mudslides and landslides in areas of higher terrain,” the agency said.
President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico on Sunday, a move that authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief and provide emergency protective measures.
The rains have increased in intensity since Sunday morning, along with strong wind gusts, residents said.
Denise Rios, who lives in the southwestern town of Hormigueros, said she was left without power following a strong gust of wind and rain that began around noon.
“Since then it hasn't stopped,” she said. “It is raining heavily and the wind is blowing hard. I'm calm, but alert.”
A wide swathe of Puerto Rico was forecast to see 12 to 16 inches (30 to 40 cm) of rain while parts could be hit by up to 25 inches (63.5 cm), according to the NHC.
Puerto Rico's grid remains fragile after Hurricane Maria in September 2017 caused the largest blackout in US history. In that Category 5 storm, 1.5 million customers lost electricity with 80 percent of power lines knocked out.
Authorities have opened more than 100 shelters and closed beaches and casinos, and residents were urged to seek shelter.
There has been one death reported so far tied to Fiona, in the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. Authorities said one man was found dead on Saturday after his house was swept away by floods there. France will recognize a state of natural disaster for Guadeloupe, President Emmanuel Macron said on Twitter on Sunday.