Hurricane Fiona approaches the Dominican Republic after hitting Puerto Rico

Hurricane Fiona hit the Dominican Republic Monday after wrecking the power grid and triggering flooding and landslides in Puerto Rico, where the governor said the damage was “catastrophic.”

No deaths were reported, but U.S. territory authorities said it was too early to estimate the damage from a storm that was still expected to unleash torrential rains over Puerto Rico on Monday.

Up to 30 inches have been forecast for the eastern and southern regions of Puerto Rico.

“It’s important for people to understand that this isn’t over,” said Ernesto Morales, a weather forecaster with the San Juan National Weather Service.

He said the flooding had reached “historic proportions” as authorities evacuated or rescued hundreds of people across the island.

“The damage we are seeing is catastrophic,” Governor Pedro Pierluisi said.

A worker severes a utility pole that was downed by Hurricane Fiona while blocking a road in Cayey, Puerto Rico, Sunday, September 18, 2022.
A worker cuts through a utility pole that was downed by Hurricane Fiona while blocking a road in Cayey, Puerto Rico, on September 18, 2022.
AP

Brown water poured down streets, into homes and even consumed an airport runway in southern Puerto Rico.

Fiona also ripped up asphalt from roads and washed away a bridge in the central mountain town of Utuado, which police say was installed by the National Guard after Hurricane Maria hit as a Category 4 storm in 2017.

The storm also ripped off the roofs of several homes, including Nelson Cirino’s in the northern coastal town of Loiza.

“I was sleeping and I saw the corrugated iron fly off,” he said as he watched the rain soak his clothes.

Ada Vivian Román, a 21-year-old photography student, said the storm knocked down trees and fences in her hometown of Toa Alta.

“I’m actually really concerned because it’s a really slow-moving hurricane,” she said.

A man walks on a street flooded by Hurricane Fiona in Cayey, Puerto Rico, Sunday September 18, 2022.
A man walks on a street flooded by Hurricane Fiona in Cayey, Puerto Rico, Sunday September 18, 2022.
AP

She said she also worries whether the public transport she relies on to get to her job at a PR agency will be operational by the time she returns to the office.

“But I know I’m privileged compared to other families who are practically losing their homes because they’re under water,” she said.

Fiona was 50 miles southeast of Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic with maximum sustained winds of 85 miles per hour as of Sunday night, according to the US National Hurricane Center. It was moving northwest at 9 miles per hour.

It struck on the anniversary of Hurricane Hugo, which hit the island in 1989 as a Category 3 storm.

As authorities continue to assess Fiona’s damage, many wondered when power would be restored.

“This is probably the worst damage there is,” said Tomás Rivera, who co-owns a hotel in the southwest coastal town of El Combate.

Hurricane Fiona
Hurricane Fiona hovers over the Caribbean Sea as it heads toward the Dominican Republic.
ZUMA24.com

US President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency for US territory as the eye of the storm neared the southwest corner of the island.

The power outage caused by Hurricane Maria was blamed for the deaths of nearly 3,000 people in the aftermath of the storm, with power not being restored in some neighborhoods until a year later. Maria was a devastating Category 4 storm that hit September 20, 2017.

Luma, the company that runs power transmission and distribution, said bad weather, including 80-mph winds, cut transmission lines on Sunday, causing “a power outage across the island.”

Health centers were running on generators – and some of them had failed. Health Secretary Carlos Mellado said crews rushed to fix generators at the Comprehensive Cancer Center, where several patients had to be evacuated.

More than 3,000 houses still have only a blue tarpaulin roof and infrastructure remains weak, including the electricity grid. Outages are still common and recovery has only recently begun.

A rain-swollen river caused by Hurricane Fiona rushes through Cayey, Puerto Rico on Sunday.
A rain-swollen river caused by Hurricane Fiona rushes through Cayey, Puerto Rico on Sunday.
AP

“I think all of us Puerto Ricans who have experienced Maria have this post-traumatic stress: ‘What’s going to happen, how long is it going to take, and what needs might we come up with?'” said Danny Hernández, who works in the capital city of San Juan , but planned to weather the storm with his parents and family in the western town of Mayaguez.

The storm devastated towns along Puerto Rico’s southern coast that have yet to fully recover from a series of powerful earthquakes that began in late 2019.

More than 1,000 people with about 80 pets had taken shelter across the island by Sunday night, most of them on the south coast.

A home is submerged in flood waters caused by Hurricane Fiona on September 18, 2022 in Cayey, Puerto Rico.
A home is submerged in flood waters caused by Hurricane Fiona on September 18, 2022 in Cayey, Puerto Rico.
AP

Fiona was predicted to flood the Dominican Republic and then northern Haiti and the Turks and Caicos Islands early Monday with a risk of heavy rain. It could threaten the far southern end of the Bahamas on Tuesday.

Hurricane warnings have been issued for the east coast of the Dominican Republic from Cabo Caucedo to Cabo Frances Viejo and for the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Fiona had previously hit the eastern Caribbean, killing a man in the French territory of Guadeloupe when floods washed away his home, officials said.

https://nypost.com/2022/09/19/hurricane-fiona-nears-dominican-republic-after-pounding-puerto-rico/ Hurricane Fiona approaches the Dominican Republic after hitting Puerto Rico

JACLYN DIAZ

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