© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People clear the way from fallen trees after Hurricane Fiona affected the area in Yauco, Puerto Rico September 18, 2022. REUTERS/Ricardo Arduengo
By Ivelisse Rivera and Ezequiel Abiu Lopez
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico/Santo Domingo (Reuters) – Hurricane Fiona made landfall in the Dominican Republic on Monday and Puerto Rico braced for another day of heavy rain and life-threatening flooding, a US government agency said. You know, the day after the island lost power on a large scale.
Eric Blake of the US National Hurricane Center said the Dominican Republic was experiencing “extreme rainfall” and winds of up to 90 miles per hour, as storm conditions in Puerto Rico began to ease.
Hurricane Fiona made landfall in Puerto Rico on Sunday afternoon, five years after the US Caribbean territory was ravaged by Hurricane Maria.
“Tomorrow will be drier than today, but today is going to be a long day,” said Blake, acting branch chief of the NHC’s hurricane specialist unit, in Puerto Rico. “The strongest winds have died down and it has swept over the Dominican Republic.”
Puerto Rico’s power grid remains fragile despite urgent repairs after Hurricane Maria in September 2017 caused the largest blackout in US history, according to the Puerto Rico New Economic Research Center.
During that Category 5 storm that killed more than 3,000 people, 1.5 million customers lost power with 80% of lines down. Thousands of Puerto Ricans still live under makeshift tarps.
Fiona’s eye landed in the Dominican Republic near Boca Yuma at 3:30 a.m. local time, the NHC said. It is the first hurricane to hit the country directly since Hurricane Jeanne left heavy damage in the east of the country in September 2018. The Dominican Republic shares the Caribbean island of Hispanola with Haiti.
Fiona brought down trees, power lines and advertisements in the towns of Punta Cana, La Romana and El Seibo in the eastern Dominican Republic in the early hours of Monday. Aid groups said there were no immediate reports of injuries.
Juan Salas, director of the country’s Civil Defense Office, pointed out that about 800 people have been evacuated from high-risk areas and near rivers and ravines in rural communities in the east. .
Juan Manuel Méndez, director of the Dominica Emergency Operations Center, warned that rain could last for two days, even if the eye of the storm moves away from Dominican territory late Monday.
Nearly 90% of Puerto Rico remained without power as of Monday, according to Poweroutage.us. Officials say it will take days to reconnect the entire island of 3.3 million people.
NHC’s Blake said rain bands could follow storm systems east of Puerto Rico for hundreds of miles. The National Weather Service lifted its storm warning for the US territory on Monday morning.
Even so, authorities are advising residents, especially in the southern and western parts of the island, to seek higher ground as some areas may experience up to 10 inches of rain. .
U.S. President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico on Sunday, authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief and provide emergency protective measures.