Puerto Rico was left without power near night on Sunday amid catastrophic flooding, hurricane strong winds and the destruction of at least one bridge, nearly five years after Hurricane Maria devastated the island.
Hurricane Fiona made landfall at 3:20 p.m. and quickly caused unrest, and government officials said they were preparing to evacuate people in the hardest-hit areas.
Gov. Pedro Pierluis said at a news conference Sunday that the tropical cyclone “directly hit the island.” Later, he said in a statement that the center of the storm had left, but the storm’s effects would last until at least Monday.
With winds estimated at 85 mph, well above minimum hurricane strength, nearly 1.5 million utility customers were without power. Puerto Rico could see 12 to 18 inches of rain, with up to 30 inches in some areas, the National Hurricane Center said.
The storm dumped 9 to 13 inches of rain in five hours, Pierluisi said.
“These rains will cause life-threatening, catastrophic flash flooding and urban flooding in eastern Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, as well as mudslides and landslides in higher-lying areas,” the Hurricane Center said in an evening advisory.
Earlier, Pier Luisi tried to reassure Puerto Ricans that the government was prepared for the worst and had the necessary protocols in place. statement.
First responders are actively responding to emergencies where citizens’ lives are at stake, he said.
According to poweroutage.us, the number of customers without power is 1,468,223.
In its own statement, island utility LUMA Energy said it could take several days to restore power, given the dangerous conditions on the island on Sunday night and the widespread nature of the outage.
It said the energy grid had suffered multiple outages along transmission lines, causing blackouts across the island.
The power struggle evoked painful memories of Hurricane Maria, one of the worst storms on record in Puerto Rico and the deadliest natural disaster on U.S. soil in 100 years.
The storm killed 2,975 people on September 20, 2017, and quickly exposed the island’s deteriorating power grid.
The resulting blackout lasted nearly 11 months, making it the second longest outage in the world.
In the afternoon, the town of Utuado, in the mountains in the central Cordillera, appeared to be a vehicle bridge washed away by rain, according to multiple videos obtained by NBC News.
Two members of Pennsylvania’s First City Search and Rescue Task Force are expected to travel to Puerto Rico with a federal incident support team, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said on Sunday.
The first responders are set to stay in Puerto Rico for up to two weeks, he said.
Earlier, President Joe Biden declared a federal state of emergency for the island. This freed up FEMA to assist local responders and provided FEMA cash and assistance to Puerto Ricans affected by Fiona.
Forecasters called for mostly the same wind and rain for nearly two days.
The National Hurricane Center said earlier Sunday that a hurricane warning has been issued for the east coast of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, from Cabo Caucedo to Cabo Frances Viejo.
That means residents could expect a hurricane within the next 24 hours with sustained surface winds of at least 74 mph, the center said. “Hurry up and make preparations to protect life and property,” it said.
A 48-hour hurricane warning is in effect for the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, from Cape Francisco Viejo to Puerto Plata.
The National Hurricane Center said Fiona is expected to move northwestward, near the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, with winds of 85 mph.
Fiona is expected to move near or east of the Turks and Caicos Islands on Tuesday.
Winds are likely to get stronger over the next two days, according to the National Hurricane Center, adding that the hurricane is also expected to bring heavy rain, flash floods and mudslides to the Dominican Republic.
As the storm approaches, 3 to 8 inches of rain is possible in the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and the northeastern coast of the Dominican Republic.
Pierluisi announced on Twitter on Sunday that classes in the island’s public schools will be canceled on Monday, as will the work of other government agencies except first responders and essential personnel.
Governor also Say People in flood-prone areas should be evacuated, and 118 shelters are open, it said on Twitter on Sunday.
Pierluisi said there was $550 million in emergency funds available to deal with the aftermath of the hurricane and enough food to feed 200,000 people three times a day for 20 days.
The governor previously said the expected heavy rain was dangerous because the island’s soil was saturated.
A hurricane-related death was reported on the French island of Guadeloupe, where more than 20 people were rescued from high winds and heavy rain that left 13,000 customers without power.
The body was found on the side of the road after floodwaters washed away a house in the capital Basseterre, district chief Alexander Rochat told reporters on Saturday.
Josh Cradack, Michelle Acevedo, Courtney Brogel, Alec Hernandez, Brian Garrion and Ali Gostanian contributed.