All of Puerto Rico was without power Sunday as Category 1 Hurricane Fiona barreled toward the island, threatening to drop massive amounts of rain on its southern coast.
The island’s governor Pedro Pierluisi confirmed the mass blackout a few hours after President Biden made an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico on Sunday.
Biden’s announcement allows FEMA to prepare to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona, which was anticipated to bring up to 25 inches of rain, with most affected areas seeing between 12 and 16 inches.
“It’s time to take action and be concerned,” Nino Correa, Puerto Rico’s emergency management commissioner, said.
The island’s power service, Luma, said it wasn’t sure when power would be restored because “current weather conditions are extremely dangerous and are hindering our capacity to evaluate the complete situation.”
It warned residents they might have to wait several days to regain electricity.
Fiona, then a tropical storm, killed one man in the French territory of Guadeloupe on Friday after his home was washed away by floods. His body was discovered on Saturday.
The storm was upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane on Sunday as it reached sustained winds of 80 mph, and churned about 25 miles south of the city of Ponce as of 3p.m. EST Sunday.
These rains will produce life-threatening flash flooding and urban flooding across Puerto Rico and the eastern Dominican Republic, along with mudslides and landslides in areas of higher terrain,” the the National Hurricane Center said.
“What worries me most is the rain,” forecaster Ernesto Morales with the National Weather Service said.
The National Weather Service said Saturday that the Blanco River in the island’s southeast is already overflowing and told those who live nearby to flee to higher locations, and other rivers began to crest Sunday.
Public schools and government agencies will be closed on Monday, and Gov. Pierluisi has deployed the country’s national guard. The island’s main airport and its ports were closed Sunday.
The area expected to be hit by the hurricane is still reeling from a string of earthquakes in 2019 that cause significant destruction.
Fiona will land just two days before the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria, the Category 5 hurricane that destroyed Puerto Rico’s power grid and killed around 3,000 people.
The country’s grid, which has already failed, has remained particularly tenuous since Maria.
“I think all of us Puerto Ricans who lived through Maria have that post-traumatic stress of, ‘What is going to happen, how long is it going to last and what needs might we face?’” Danny Hernández, who works in San Juan, told the Associated Press.
Hernández stocked up at a local supermarket before the storm hit. “After Maria, we all experienced scarcity to some extent,” he added
Fiona is this Atlantic Ocean hurricane season’s sixth named storm.