Hurricane Fiona rainfall ‘catastrophic’ for Puerto Rico – Orlando Sentinel

After a day of deluging the area, Hurricane Fiona continues to stomp through Puerto Rico with devastating force after knocking out power throughout the territory and dumping as much as 30-inches of rain over the southern region.

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“It’s important people understand that this is not over,” said Ernesto Morales, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in San Juan.

Heavy and historic rainfall is expected to continue today, the NWS said, just two days before the five year anniversary of Hurricane Maria.

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The massive rain totals caused landslides and rising floodwaters with rushing rivers of brown water that enveloped cars, first floors and even an airport runway in the island’s southern region.

“The damages that we are seeing are catastrophic,” said Gov. Pedro Pierluisi.

The storm 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. Large landslides also were reported, with water rushing down big slabs of broken asphalt and into gullies.

As of 5 a.m., the National Hurricane Center said the system had sustained winds of 90 mph with higher gusts located now to the west of Puerto Rico, and about 15 miles south-southeast of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic moving west-northwest at 8 mph. Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 30 miles with tropical-storm-force winds up to 160 miles.

The system made landfall on the extreme southwestern coast near Punta Tocon at 3:20 p.m.

“A northwestward motion is forecast to begin overnight and continue through Monday, followed by a turn toward the north-northwest on Tuesday,” said NHC senior hurricane specialist Daniel Brown. “On the forecast track, the center of Fiona will move over the eastern portions of the Dominican Republic tonight and Monday, and near or to the east of the Turks and Caicos Islands on Tuesday.”

Hurricane warnings remain in effect for Puerto Rico, parts of the Dominican Republic and the Turks and Caicos islands with a tropical storm warning in place for the southeastern Bahamas.

The system’s intense rain drenched the U.S. and British Virgin Islands Sunday during the day, but continued its assault on Puerto Rico into the evening with effects beginning to hit the Dominican Republic, the NHC stated.

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“These rains will produce life-threatening and catastrophic flash and urban flooding across Puerto Rico and the eastern Dominican Republic, along with mudslides and landslides in areas of higher terrain,” Brown said.

The storm was forecast to pummel cities and towns along Puerto Rico’s southern coast that are still recovering from a string of strong earthquakes that hit the region starting in late 2019, with several schools still shuttered and debris to be removed.

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 company that operates power transmission and distribution, said bad weather, including winds of 80 mph, had disrupted transmission lines, leading to “a blackout 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.

Puerto Rico’s power grid was razed by Hurricane Maria and remains frail, with reconstruction starting only recently. Outages are a daily occurrence, and fires at power plants have occurred in recent months.

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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.

With Fiona arriving just two days before the anniversary of Hurricane Maria, a deadly Category 4 storm that hit on Sept. 20, 2017, anxiety levels ran high across the island. People boarded up windows and stocked up on food and water.

“I think all of us Puerto Ricans who lived through Maria have that post-traumatic stress of, ‘What is going to happen, how long is it going to last and what needs might we face?’” said Danny Hernández, who works in the capital of San Juan but planned to weather the storm with his parents and family in the western town of Mayaguez.

The system’s updated path forecasts it to travel further away from Florida, with the center moving northwest past the Dominican Republic and then to the east of the Turks and Caicos up into the Atlantic and threatening Bermuda by the end of the week as a major Category 3 system with 125 mph winds and 155 mph gusts.

Already, storm surge and a deluge from Fiona plagued the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe with at least one death confirmed Sunday when officials with French overseas territory said floods washed his home away.

The storm left behind heavy road damage on Guadeloupe with video on Twitter showing fast-moving floods flowing down streets up to washed out roads and streets flooded up to 2 feet washing away cars. Projected rainfall had been more than 8 inches in some parts of the island.

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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.

Elsewhere in the Atlantic, a tropical wave was detected Thursday midway between the west coast of Africa and the Lesser Antilles islands. The weather system of disorganized showers and thunderstorms associated with a weak trough of low pressure, though, is not likely to develop as it moves north over the next couple of days, NHC forecasters said, giving it only a 10% of formation in the next two-to-five days.

Fiona became the season’s third hurricane following hurricanes Daniella and Earl earlier this month. What had been forecast to be an above average tropical season was mostly quiet in July and August before picking up steam on Sept. 1.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1-Nov. 30.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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