Hurricane Fiona rips through powerless Puerto Rico
HAVANA — Hurricane Fiona struck Puerto Rico’s southwest coast on Sunday as it unleashed landslides, knocked the power grid out and ripped up asphalt from roads and flung the pieces around.
Forecasters said the tempest would cause disastrous flooding and took steps to dump “notable” levels of downpour, with up to 25 inches conceivable in disengaged regions.
“I urge people to stay in their homes,” said William Miranda Torres, mayor of the northern town of Caguas, where at least one large landslide was reported, with water rushing down a big slab of broken asphalt and into a gully.
The tempest likewise washed away a scaffold in the focal mountain town of Utuado that police say was introduced by the Public Gatekeeper after Storm Maria hit in 2017.
Fiona hit about 15 miles south-southeast of Mayaguez with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. It was moving to the northwest at 9 mph.
Fiona struck on the anniversary of Hurricane Hugo, which hit Puerto Rico 33 years ago as a Category 3 storm.
The storm’s clouds covered the entire island and tropical storm-force winds extended as far as 140 miles from Fiona’s center.
U.S. President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency in the U.S. territory as the eye of the storm approached the island’s southwest corner.
Luma, the organization that works power transmission and dissemination, said terrible climate, including winds of 80 mph, had upset transmission lines, prompting “a power outage on all the island.”
“Current weather conditions are extremely dangerous and are hindering out capacity to evaluate the complete situation,” it said, adding that it could take several days to fully restore power.
Health centers were running on generators — and some of those had failed. Health Secretary Carlos Mellado said crews were working to repair generators as soon as possible at the Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Fiona hit only two days before the commemoration of Typhoon Maria, an overwhelming Classification 4 tempest that struck on Sept. 20, 2017, annihilating the island’s power matrix and causing almost 3,000 passings.
More than 3,000 homes still have only a blue tarp as a roof, and infrastructure remains weak.
“I think about us Puerto Ricans who survived Maria have that post-horrible pressure of, ‘What will occur, how long is it will endure and what necessities could we face?'” said Danny Hernández, who works in the capital of San Juan yet wanted to face the hardship with his folks and family in the western town of Mayaguez.
He said the atmosphere was gloomy at the supermarket as he and others stocked up before the storm hit.
“After Maria, we all experienced scarcity to some extent,” he said.
The storm was forecast to pummel cities and towns along Puerto Rico’s southern coast that have not yet fully recovered from a string of strong earthquakes starting in late 2019.
Officials reported several road closures across the island as trees and small landslides blocked access.
In excess of 780 individuals for certain 80 pets had looked for cover across the island by Saturday night, most of them in the southern coast.
Puerto Rico’s power grid was razed by Hurricane Maria and remains frail, with reconstruction starting only recently. Outages are a daily occurrence.
In the southwest town of El Combate, hotel co-owner Tomás Rivera said he was prepared but worried about the “enormous” amount of rain he expected. He noted that a nearby wildlife refuge was eerily quiet.
“There are thousands of birds here, and they are nowhere to be seen,” he said. “Even the birds have realized what is coming, and they’re preparing.”
Mr. Rivera said his workers carried laid up relatives to the lodging, where he has loaded up on diesel, gas, food, water and ice, considering how gradually the public authority answered after Storm Maria.
“What we’ve done is prepared ourselves to depend as little as possible on the central government,” he said.
It’s a sentiment shared by 70-year-old Ana Córdova, who arrived Saturday at a shelter in the north coastal town of Loiza after buying loads of food and water.
“I don’t trust them,” she said, referring to the government. “I lost trust after what happened after Hurricane Maria.”
Puerto Rico’s governor, Pedro Pierluisi, activated the National Guard as the Atlantic hurricane season’s sixth named storm approached.
“What worries me most is the rain,” said forecaster Ernesto Morales with the National Weather Service in San Juan.
Fiona was anticipated to drop 12 to 16 crawls of downpour over eastern and southern Puerto Rico, with however much 25 creeps in disengaged spots. Spirits noticed that Typhoon Maria in 2017 had released 40 inches.
Mr. Pierluisi announced Sunday that public schools and government agencies would remain closed on Monday.
Fiona was forecast to swipe the Dominican Republic on Monday and then northern Haiti and the Turks and Caicos Islands with the threat of heavy rain. It could threaten the far southern end of the Bahamas on Tuesday.
A hurricane warning was posted for the Dominican Republic’s eastern coast from Cabo Caucedo to Cabo Frances Viejo.
Fiona recently battered the eastern Caribbean, killing a one man in the French area of Guadeloupe when floods washed his home away, authorities said. The tempest likewise harmed streets, evacuated trees and obliterated no less than one extension.
St. Kitts and Nevis also reported flooding and downed trees, but announced its international airport would reopen on Sunday afternoon. Dozens of customers were still without power or water, according to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency.
In the eastern Pacific, Hurricane Madeline was estimate to cause weighty rains and flooding across parts of southwestern Mexico. The tempest was focused around 155 miles south-southwest of Cabo Corrientes Sunday morning, with greatest supported breezes of 45 mph.