By Associated Press
and Newsy Staff
September 19, 2022
Fiona was centered 35 miles southeast of Samana in the Dominican Republic Monday morning with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph.
Hurricane Fiona roared over the Dominican Republic Monday after knocking out the power grid and unleashing floods and landslides in Puerto Rico, where the governor said the damage was “catastrophic.”
No deaths have been reported, but authorities in the U.S. territory said it was too early to estimate the damage from a storm that was still forecast to unleash torrential rain across Puerto Rico on Monday.
Up to 30 inches was forecast for Puerto Rico’s southern region. As much as 15 inches were projected for the eastern Dominican Republic.
“It’s important people understand that this is not over,” said Ernesto Morales, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in San Juan.
He said flooding reached “historic levels,” with authorities evacuating or rescuing hundreds of people across the island.
“The damages that we are seeing are catastrophic,” said Gov. Pedro Pierluisi.
Before dawn on Monday, authorities in a boat traveled through the flooded streets of the north coastal town of Catano and used a megaphone to alert people that the pumps had collapsed and urged them to evacuate as soon as possible.
Brown water rushed through streets, into homes and even consumed a runway airport in southern Puerto Rico.
Fiona also ripped up asphalt from roads and washed away a bridge in the central mountain town of Utuado that police say was installed by the National Guard after Hurricane Maria hit in 2017 as a Category 4 storm.
The storm also ripped off the roofs of several homes, including that of Nelson Cirino in the northern coastal town of Loiza.
“I was sleeping and saw when the corrugated metal flew off,” he said as he observed how the rain drenched his belongings and the wind whipped his colorful curtains into the air.
Fiona was centered 35 miles southeast of Samana in the Dominican Republic, with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph on Monday morning, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. It was moving to the northwest at 8 mph.
Tropical storm-force winds extended out for 150 miles from the center.
Forecasters said the storm was expected to emerge over the Atlantic in the afternoon and pass close to the Turks and Caicos islands on Tuesday. It could near Bermuda as a major hurricane late Thursday or Friday.
Fiona hit Puerto Rico on the anniversary of Hurricane Hugo, which slammed into the island in 1989 as a Category 3 storm, and two days before the anniversary of 2017’s devastating Hurricane Maria — from which the territory has yet to fully recover.
That hurricane caused nearly 3,000 deaths and destroyed the power grid. Five years later, more than 3,000 homes still have only a blue tarp as a roof.
Authorities announced Monday that power had been returned to 100,000 customers on an island of 3.2 million people, but power distribution company Luma said it could take days to fully restore service.
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.
Puerto Rico’s health centers were running on generators — and some of those had failed. Health Secretary Carlos Mellado said crews rushed to repair generators at the Comprehensive Cancer Center, where several patients had to be evacuated.
Fiona previously battered the eastern Caribbean, killing one man in the French territory of Guadeloupe when floods washed his home away, officials said.
Additional reporting by The Associated Press.