A Category 1 hurricane bringing heavy rain, dangerous winds and power outages to Puerto Rico was expected to make landfall on Sunday afternoon as the island braces for “potentially deadly” flash flooding and landslides.
Hurricane Fiona, which was located about 40 miles off the coast of the Caribbean island as of midday Sunday, threatens to cause widespread flooding and infrastructure damage in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic as it continues to strengthen and pour torrential rains over the next 24 hours.
A third of the island’s energy grid had already been destroyed, Puerto Rico’s government said. Ports are closed and flights from the main international airport have been cancelled.
Puerto Rico is a tropical archipelago and a US territory located approximately one thousand kilometers southeast of Miami. The main island is mainly made up of mountains surrounded by narrow coastal plains where the majority of the 3 million inhabitants reside in towns and cities. It is one of the most vulnerable places on the planet to extreme weather caused by the climate crisis.
It was devastated by Hurricane Maria in 2017, when delays in government aid contributed to the high death toll and slow recovery.
President Joe Biden has already declared a federal disaster for Puerto Rico, mobilizing the delivery of aid to the island.
Parts of Puerto Rico could see up to 25 inches of rain today, which the National Hurricane Center (NHC) says “poses an extreme risk of deadly flooding, especially in southern and eastern parts of Puerto Rico. the island”.
Landslides and landslides are likely on higher ground, while storm surges could cause flooding 1 to 3 feet above normally dry ground along the east and south coast of main island and smaller ones of Vieques and Culebra, according to the NHC, which is part of the National Weather Service (NWS).
Fiona is likely to further damage Puerto Rico’s fragile centralized power grid, which Hurricane Maria exposed and exacerbated, and continues to strand residents with frequent blackouts and sky-high bills.
It is heading for US territory after battering several eastern Caribbean islands, with one death reported in the French territory of Guadeloupe at the end of last week. Fiona upgraded from a tropical storm to a hurricane on Sunday morning as it intensified as it tracked west toward Puerto Rico and the neighboring Dominican Republic.
Meanwhile, nearly 5,000 miles away in Alaska, residents were waking up to a streak of destruction caused by a historic storm that impacted nearly 1,000 miles of the Alaskan coast during Friday and Saturday. .
Governor Mike Dunleavy issued a disaster declaration on Saturday after the mighty storm, the remnant of Typhoon Merbok, forced hundreds of people to evacuate their homes as seawater rose up to 50ft in some areas, with heavy rain and wind gusts up to 90 mph. No loss of life was reported.
On Sunday, Dunleavy said the state must act quickly to assess and repair damage to infrastructure such as roads and bridges because freezing Arctic temperatures could hamper efforts within weeks.