Even Puerto Ricans who remember the wrath of Hurricane Maria in 2017, say Fiona could be even more devastating.
It’s unbelievable,” said Juan Miguel Gonzalez, a San Juan business owner.
“A lot of people – more than (during) Maria – have lost their homes now…they have lost everything in their homes to the floods,” Gonzalez told CNN’s Leila Santiago.
“Maria’s wind was stormy. But this wind, with all the rain, destroyed everything in the house.”
By midday Monday, emergency teams had rescued about 1,000 people in Puerto Rico, said Maj. Gen. Jose Reyes, assistant general in the Puerto Rican National Guard.
Heavy rains were expected to continue to produce mudslides and catastrophic flooding into Monday night.
The governor of Puerto Rico, Pedro Pierluisi, said that one hundred first responders from New York will be heading to US soil to help as soon as the weather permits, adding that the governors of New Jersey and California have also pledged to send assistance.
Fiona made landfall Monday morning in the Dominican Republic after crossing land the day before in southwest Puerto Rico.
One area north of Ponce reported more than two feet of rain in a 24 hour period.
Rescue operations are underway Monday in the municipalities of Mayagüez and Hormigueros, in western Puerto Rico, officials said. The Guanajibo River in Hormigueros exceeded its previous record high recorded during the Maria.
Meanwhile, southern Puerto Rico could expect another 4 to 6 inches of rain or more early this week — meaning Fiona will leave the island soaked in 12 to 30 inches of rain, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.
“This amount of rain will continue to cause catastrophic and life-threatening flooding as well as mudslides and landslides across Puerto Rico,” the hurricane center said.
Massive blackouts crippled Puerto Rico
And it could be days before electricity is restored, Puerto Rico’s main electric utility said Sunday, as high daily temperatures after Monday are expected to reach the mid-80s and 90s.
LUMA Energy said several outages in transmission lines contributed to the power outages. Pierluisi said in a Facebook post that the power would be restored “gradually”.
By late Monday morning, Puerto Rico’s Minister of Health, Dr. Carlos Melado Lopez, said there was good news from the island’s capital: The power system for hospitals at the San Juan medical complex was back. The complex is the most important on the island and spans 227 acres, according to the Puerto Rico Department of Health.
“The power system has been restored in all hospitals in the medical center complex,” Milado wrote on Twitter on Sunday night. “Our patients are safe and receiving the medical care they need.”
Fiona’s latest track
The National Hurricane Center said heavy rainfall will continue to cause mudslides, landslides and catastrophic flooding across Puerto Rico through Monday night.
The National Hurricane Center said the hurricane hit the community of Boca de Yuma in the Dominican Republic early Monday morning, with maximum winds of 90 miles per hour.
The hurricane center said life-threatening flash floods and urban flooding are expected in eastern parts of the Dominican Republic through early Tuesday.
Fiona can also cause 12 inches of rain to fall in the eastern and northern parts of the country.
As Fiona moves away from the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, it is expected to intensify as it moves north over warm waters.
A tropical storm is expected to hit the southeastern Bahamas by late Monday or early Tuesday, and Fiona is expected to affect the eastern Turks and Caicos on Tuesday morning.
“Fiona will continue to turn north and then northeast this week, approaching Bermuda on Friday as a major hurricane,” CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller said.
Another widespread disaster
Samuel Rivera and his mother, Lourdes Rodriguez, lived without electricity for about a year after Maria, Rivera told CNN. On Sunday morning, they lost power again, raising concerns similar to those they had five years ago.
They said they were also concerned about the possibility of a nearby river flooding, and the possibility that trees around their house might be brought down by high winds.
Several rivers on the eastern side of the island were in moderate to large stages of flooding on Sunday afternoon, including a southeastern river that rose more than 12 feet in less than seven hours.
US President Joe Biden early Sunday approved an emergency declaration to provide federal assistance to disaster relief efforts.
Ann Pink, FEMA’s Associate Response and Recovery Officer, said more than 300 FEMA emergency workers were on the ground responding to the crisis.
“Our hearts go out to the residents who are once again going through another catastrophic event five years later,” Pink said, pointing at Maria. This time, she said, FEMA is planning to implement the lessons learned from the 2017 crisis.
“We were a lot more prepared. We have four warehouses now in strategic locations across the island, which include goods, and a much larger supply than in the past,” Pink said.
“We’re there proactively – and before a storm hits – to make sure we’re coordinating. All of our planning efforts during those blue-sky days can be capitalized when it rains.”
CNN’s Laila Santiago in San Juan, Puerto Rico; CNN meteorologists Brandon Miller and Halle Brink; CNN’s Paul B. Murphy, Jamil Lynch, Alfonso Serrano, Caitlin Kaiser, Allie Malloy and Dakin Andoni contributed to this report.
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