Hurricane Fiona roared over the Dominican Republic Monday after taking power across Puerto Rico, causing damage that the governor said was “devastating.”
No d*aths have been reported, but US authorities said it was too early to know the full extent of the damage caused by the extensive storm that is still expected to trigger heavy rains in Puerto Rico on Monday.
Up to 30 inches were projected for the southern region of Puerto Rico. As much as 15 inches is provided for the eastern Dominican Republic.
“It’s important for people to understand that it’s not over yet,” said Ernesto Morales, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in San Juan.
He said the floods had reached “historical levels” and that authorities had evacuated or rescued hundreds of people across the island.
8:00 a.m. EST The National Hurricane Center said that “hurricane conditions” continued in parts of the Dominican Republic. The “heavy rainfall and catastrophic flooding” continued in most of Puerto Rico.
“The damage we are seeing is catastrophic,” said Governor Pedro Pierluisi.
Deanne Criswell, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said in a statement to CBS News on Sunday night that the agency was “actively supporting” Puerto Rico and “immediately deployed hundreds of FEMA personnel before the storm hit land.”
“Right now our focus is on saving lives and responding to urgent needs such as restoring power,” said Criswell.
Before dawn Monday, authorities on a boat sailed through the flooded streets of Catano on the north coast and used a loudspeaker to warn people that the pumps had collapsed, urging them to evacuate as quickly as possible.
Brown water poured into homes through the streets and engulfed the airport on a runway in southern Puerto Rico.
Fiona also ripped asphalt off the roads and washed a bridge in the central mountain town of Utuado, which police said was installed by the National Guard after Hurricane Maria hit 2017 as a Category 4 storm.
The storm also ripped off the roofs of houses, including that of Nelson Cirino in the northern coastal town of Loiza.
“I slept and saw the corrugated sheet fly away,” he said, watching the rain wet his belongings and the wind lifting his colorful curtains into the air.
Fiona was 35 miles southeast of Samana in the Dominican Republic, with a maximum steady wind of 90mph on Monday morning, according to the US National Hurricane Center. It was moving northwest at eight miles per hour.
Tropical storm winds extended 150 miles from the center.
Forecasts say the storm was set to hit the Atlantic in the afternoon and cross the Turks and Caicos Islands on Tuesday. Maybe near Bermuda as the big hurricane late Thursday or Friday.
Fiona struck Puerto Rico on the anniversary of Hurricane Hugo, which struck the island in 1989 as a Category 3 storm, and two days before the anniversary of the devastating Hurricane Maria in 2017 – from which territory has yet to be fully recovered.
This hurricane killed nearly 3,000 people and destroyed the power grid. Five years later, more than 3,000 homes still only have a blue tarpaulin for their roof.
Authorities announced on Monday that the energy had been returned to 100,000 customers on an island with a population of 3.2 million, but distribution company Luma said it could take days to fully restore the service.
US President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency on US territory as the eye of the storm approached the southwestern tip of the island.
Puerto Rico’s health centers ran on generators – and some have failed. Health Secretary Carlos Mellado said crews rushed to repair the generators at the Comprehensive Cancer Center, where several patients had to be evacuated.
Fiona had previously hit the eastern Caribbean, killing one man in Guadeloupe’s French territory as floods washed away his home.
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