More than 1.4 million people in Puerto Rico were shrouded in darkness on Sunday as Hurricane Fiona knocked out power to the entire island and battered the territory with heavy rains, winds and life-threatening flooding, officials said.
As severe weather continued to batter Puerto Rico Sunday afternoon, Hurricane Fiona began moving west toward the Dominican Republic. Areas east of the Dominican Republic were expected to begin seeing hurricane conditions Sunday night and into Monday, the National Hurricane Center said.
So far, at least one person has been killed in the already heavily damaged city of Basse-Terre, the capital of French Guadeloupe, the vice president of the territory’s environmental agency. he said on Sunday.
The hurricane made landfall on the southwestern coast of Puerto Rico on Sunday afternoon, with strong winds lashing the island. 75 kilometers per hour and bringing 6-24 inches of rain to some areas by the end of the day, according to the National Weather Service.
Fiona continues to batter Puerto Rico and eastern parts of the Dominican Republic overnight and into Monday. Flooding and mudslides and landslides are also possible in the eastern areas of the Dominican Republic, according to the hurricane center. Fiona could bring a total of 30 inches of rainfall to Puerto Rico and up to 12 inches to the east and north of the Dominican Republic.
The hurricane is expected to gain strength as it passes the Dominican Republic and moves toward Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas on Monday and Tuesday. National Hurricane Center. Turks and Caicos are under a hurricane warning and the southern Bahamas under a tropical storm watch.
LUMA Energy, Puerto Rico’s main power utility, said in a statement Sunday that it could be days before power is restored, adding that “some transmission line outages” are contributing to the blackout. The process will be carried out “gradually”, Governor Pedro Pierluisi said in a Facebook post.
PowerOutage.us reported that the entire island was without power early Monday, adding that LUMA had “re-energized some circuits,” but there was limited information and no word on how many customers had been restored.
For many living in Puerto Rico, power outages have become a familiar crisis. Just five months ago, residents experienced another island-wide blackout after a fire broke out at a power plant.
Parts of the island still bear the scars of Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico five years ago. After Hurricane Maria caused massive damage to the territory’s infrastructure, it took almost a year to restore electricity to the entire island.
Samuel Rivera and his mother Lourdes Rodriguez lived without power for about a year after Maria hit, Rivera told CNN’s Layla Santiago. On Sunday morning, they lost power once again, creating similar fears as they did five years ago.
They said they are also worried that a nearby river could flood and the trees surrounding their house could be blown down by strong winds.
When Hurricane Fiona made landfall on Sunday, most of Puerto Rico was under a flood warning in anticipation of heavy rain. The National Weather Service in San Juan warned of “catastrophic” and life-threatening flood conditions.
A video of the dangerous flood shows a bridge easily swept away by rushing water, carrying its structure downstream. Another shot by Samuel De Jesús depicts a scene in the city of Arecibo, as rain falls in sheets, adding to the rushing water that sweeps over large construction vehicles and entire trees.
Many rivers on the east side of the island were at moderate to high flood levels Sunday afternoon, including one river in the southeast that rose over 12 feet in less than 7 hours. By Sunday night, the National Weather Service also issued flash flood warnings for south central Puerto Rico.
In response to the danger facing Puerto Rico, President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration early Sunday to provide federal aid to disaster relief efforts.
More than 300 FEMA emergency workers were on the ground responding to the crisis, Anne Bink, the agency’s Associate Administrator for Response and Recovery, told CNN.
“Our hearts go out to the residents who are experiencing another catastrophic event five years later,” Bink said, nodding to the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria. This time, he said, FEMA plans to implement lessons learned from the 2017 crisis.
“We were much more prepared. We now have four warehouses strategically located across the island, which include raw materials, exponentially larger supplies than in the past,” he said.
“We are proactively there, and before any storm, to make sure we are coordinating. And all the planning efforts we make on those blue-sky days can be realized when it rains.’