Puerto Rico reels from Fiona, with 1.3M without power amid deluge, flash floods

Puerto Rico remains under tropical storm warning after Hurricane Fiona dumped more than 2 feet of rain over the weekend.

More floods and landslides are expected Monday as intense rains are expected to continue until the end of day Tuesday.

Since Puerto Rico is still in the emergency response phase following Fiona, the island is not in need of humanitarian aid yet, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi said in a news conference Monday.

“We do need help with first responders,” he said, adding that New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has already vowed to send 100 first responders to Puerto Rico.

Pierluisi said Puerto Rico has 4 warehouses stocked with enough food and water to last during the emergency response phase, emphasizing humanitarian aid may be needed once the island enters its recovery stage.

The governor he is hoping to have an initial estimate of damages after tropical storm rains dissipate Tuesday, a process necessary for Puerto Rico to request a formal disaster declaration that would free additional resources to help the island with recovery efforts.

President Joe Biden declared a federal emergency on the island Sunday, allowing FEMA to step in with emergency response resources.

Most of the nearly 1.5 power customers in Puerto Rico remain without electricity. As of late Monday morning, about 100,000 customers have had their electricity restored, according to Luma Energy, the company in charge of power transmission and distribution in Puerto Rico.

While government officials said no hurricane-related deaths have been reported as of Monday morning, a 70-year-old man from the town of Hatillo burned to death Monday morning after his generator exploded. Emergency personnel said the man tried to refuel his generator while it was still on, causing the machine to explode.

Pierluisi said two other people who died in shelters during the hurricane are believed to have passed away from natural causes; however, officials are waiting for the Institute of Forensic Sciences to confirm if that’s the case.

Heavy rainfall left an “unprecedented accumulation of water in some areas,” but the most affected are towns in the mountainous region in the center of the island, as well as in the southern region.

Catastrophic flooding has already battered much of Puerto Rico after Fiona made landfall Sunday at about 3:20 p.m. An islandwide blackout was reported about an hour earlier as the hurricane’s eye neared Puerto Rico‘s southwestern coast.

The devastation and the failure of the power grid echo the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which made landfall five years ago this month and was the deadliest natural disaster on U.S. territory in 100 years.

People inside a house await rescue from the floods caused by Hurricane Fiona in Cayey, Puerto Rico, on Sept. 18, 2022.
People inside a house in Cayey await rescue Sunday from the floods caused by Hurricane Fiona in Puerto Rico.Stephanie Rojas / AP

On Monday, the National Weather Service in San Juan urged locals to “move to high ground immediately” due to ongoing flash flooding, expected to worsen with the pounding rain.

Bands of showers and gusty winds from 30 mph to 40 mph are forecast to bear down on the island Monday, especially in the south, from Guayama to Ponce, the weather service said.

At least two bridges have collapsed after the Category 1 hurricane ravaged Puerto Rico, one in the town of Utuado and another one in Arecibo.

Almost 66% of all water service customers, over 830,000 customers, have not had their service restored as of late Monday morning, according to the government’s PREPS page.

In the southern town of Ponce, the Mercedita International Airport remains closed due to flooding. Muddy waters in the region created mudslides in some neighborhoods, forcing some people to cling to poles in waist-deep water.

Smaller airports in Mayagüez, Arecibo and Humacao are not yet operating, according to the PREPS page.

Puerto Rico’s main airport, the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, resumed operations Monday morning but some airlines have opted to cancel some of their flights in and out of Puerto Rico.

In Aguadilla, another small airport resumed operations as well.

As of Monday morning, Fiona was making landfall in the Dominican Republic, last located 35 miles southeast of Samana with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The storm is forecast to bring hurricane conditions to the Dominican Republic on Monday with a hurricane warning in effect from Cabo Caucedo to Cabo Frances Viejo, as well as Turks and Caicos. A tropical storm warning was in effect for Puerto Rico, including Vieques and Culebra, and the north coast of the Dominican Republic and southeastern Bahamas. 

Fiona is expected to continue northwest through Monday night and will turn north-northwest Tuesday and to the north Wednesday, the hurricane center said.

The storm is forecast to move over the eastern portion of the Dominican Republic early Monday, with its center passing near or to the east of Turks and Caicos on Tuesday. 

Leave a Comment