The hurricane is already causing catastrophic flooding as it moves just west of Puerto Rico and heads toward the Dominican Republic, the center said in a 5 p.m. update.
The hurricane center is forecasting rainfall of 12 to 18 inches with a local maximum of 30 inches, particularly in eastern and southern Puerto Rico. Nearby, in the north and east of the Dominican Republic, 4 to 8 inches of precipitation is expected, with a local maximum of 12 inches possible along the northeast coast.
“These rains will produce life-threatening and catastrophic flash and urban flooding in Puerto Rico and the eastern Dominican Republic, as well as landslides and landslides in areas of higher ground,” the center said. hurricanes.
A flash flood emergency was issued for the San Felipe and Mosquito area in Salinas County on Sunday evening as heavy rains hit the area, where 10 to 15 inches of rain has already fallen, and another 2 to 4 inches are possible, according to the National Weather Service.
Heavy rains in Salinas County have already led to multiple whitewater rescues, and the Weather Service is urging people to “move to higher ground now. Do not attempt to travel unless you are fleeing a area prone to flooding or under an evacuation order.”
Many rivers on the east side of the territory are in moderate to major flood. A river in the southeast has risen more than 12ft in less than seven hours and is now over 25ft, breaking the previous record of 24.79ft set in 2017 during Hurricane Maria.
Tropical storm conditions are expected to reach parts of the Dominican Republic in the next few hours, then the Turks and Caicos Islands and parts of the southeastern Bahamas by early Tuesday.
The Bahamas government has issued a tropical storm warning for the Turks and Caicos Islands and for the southeastern Bahamas, including the Acklins, Crooked Island, Long Cay, Inaguas, Mayaguana and the Ragged Islands.
Puerto Rico without power as hurricane hits islands
Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi confirmed the territory-wide outage in a tweet, noting that the entire electrical system was out of service and officials have activated appropriate protocols to restore power.
The Electric Power Authority and LUMA Energy, which operates Puerto Rico’s power grid, continue to work on the island-wide power outage affecting nearly 1.5 million customers, according to Pierluisi .
The blackout – which followed hours of progressively worsening blackouts – comes five years after Puerto Rico’s power grid was devastated by Hurricane Maria in September 2017, leaving many residents without power During months.
But officials stressed it wouldn’t be like the last time: Shortly before the lights went out, Abner Gomez, head of public safety and crisis management at LUMA Energy, said authorities utilities planned to repair and restore electricity with the help of the local government. agencies. “It’s not Maria, this hurricane won’t be Maria,” Gomez said.
President Joe Biden on Sunday morning approved an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico, freeing up federal resources, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, for emergency response and disaster relief.
There are more than 300 FEMA responders on the ground working “hand and glove” with the Commonwealth and their emergency management structure, Anne Bink, FEMA’s deputy administrator for response and recovery, told CNN on Sunday. .
“Our hearts go out to the residents who are going through yet another catastrophic event five years later,” Bink said, noting that Fiona came close to the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Maria.
Bink said FEMA’s response is dual-purpose, including emergency generation and power missions for critical facilities and establishing a command and control structure for things like search and rescue, emergency power generation and long-term needs once the island enters recovery.
Winds from Fiona are expected to increase along the immediate coast, while conditions are expected to deteriorate throughout Sunday afternoon and evening, according to the National Weather Service office in San Juan.
About 120 shelters with 25,000 beds have been opened for those in need, the governor said. Classes on Monday have been canceled and government workers – except for emergency workers – are also expected to stay home.
A hurricane warning – stating that hurricane conditions are expected – was issued for Puerto Rico, including the islands of Vieques and Culebra, then expanded to include the eastern Dominican Republic from Cabo Caucedo to Cabo Frances Viejo. The northern coast of the Dominican Republic, from Cabo Frances Viejo west of Puerto Plata, was under a hurricane watch Sunday morning, meaning hurricane conditions are possible within the next 48 hours.
CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam contributed to this report.