Most parts of Puerto Rico still experiencing a power outage since Sunday when Hurricane Fiona battered the entire island, bringing life-threatening flash flooding and destructive winds gusting over 100mph.
Hurricane Fiona shattered through the Dominican Republic on Monday after cutting power across all of Puerto Rico, ripping up asphalt from roads, and hurling the pieces around. Fortunately, no deaths have been reported, though the National Hurricane Center continues to issue warnings of “catastrophic” flooding.
“The damages we are seeing are catastrophic,” said Gov. Pedro Pierluisi.
The U.S. territory asserted that it was too early to determine the damage from such an expansive storm.
Floods enveloped first floors, cars, and the airport runway in Puerto Rico’s southern region. According to the National Hurricane Center, the storm also made landfall along the island’s southwestern coast near Punta Tocon. Hundreds of people have been rescued from the rising floodwaters.
The center warned that the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico should expect more floods from the slow-moving storm.
“It’s important people understand that this is not over,” said Ernesto Morales, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in San Juan. Morales also claimed that flooding had reached “historic” levels.
Emmanuel Rodriguez, a National Oceanic, and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) meteorologist, also said that flooding was expected to continue overnight through Monday. Rodriguez advised people to avoid flood areas, streams, and rivers. He added that at least ten rivers had flooded, and NOAA had received several reports of damages across the island.
President Biden approved Puerto Rico’s emergency declaration Sunday morning to free up federal resources to support local disaster relief. According to the airport authority, all fights at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan were canceled Sunday following the floods. Passengers without any cancellation notice from the airline were advised not to travel to the airport facility.
Parts of the Island Could Still See Up to 30 Inches of Rain
While several water rescues are underway and widespread evacuations are still ordered in Puerto Rico, AccuWeather reported that parts of the island may still experience up to 30 inches of rain before the storms subside in the area late Monday.
“These rains will continue to produce life-threatening and catastrophic flooding along with mudslides and landslides across Puerto Rico. Life-threatening flash and urban flooding are likely for eastern portions of the Dominican Republic,” said Brad Reinhart, a hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
Sharp rises in rivers have been discovered across the island- with some approximated to reach 10 feet in just a few hours. That will lead to landslides and mudslides, more so in the mountainous regions. Mudslide risk remains even as harsh conditions begin to subside southeast to northwest.
There was a moderate risk of rip currents along Puerto Rico’s north shore and a high risk on the island’s southern beaches. Parts of the island, still healing from the battering wrought by Hurricane Maria five years ago, experienced gusts of 70 to 100 mph along the southern coast and gusts of 40 to 60 mph inland on Sunday and early Monday, which were enough to knock out power and destroy structures. Rip currents will remain a major problem throughout the initial days of the workweek.
Where is Fiona Now?
Fiona was projected to cross the Mona Passage between the eastern Dominican Republic and western Puerto Rico early Monday. That was centered 15-mile west-southwest of Punta Cana. Approximately four to eight inches of rain are estimated for the eastern Dominican Republic, after which Fiona will continue with its part. Based on the predictions, it may have a closer brush with the Dominican Republic’s mountains if it continues hewing on the southern edge.
Although it’s possible that the storm’s strongest winds and heaviest rains may remain east of the islands, warnings of a tropical storm have already been issued for Turks, Caicos, and the southern Bahamas. There is also a possibility the Canadian Maritimes and Newfoundland could be next in line next weekend for eventual impacts.