Hurricane Fiona became more powerful on Tuesday as it lashed Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic with up to 30 inches of rain, triggering overwhelming flooding, mudslides and destruction.
The storm reached the Turks and Caicos Islands as a Category 3 hurricane, hitting the British territory of about 40,000 people with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph. The government imposed a curfew and urged people to flee flood-prone areas as the archipelago braced for a 5- to 8-foot storm surge.
The storm threatened to intensify into a Category 4 storm early Wednesday as it hit the Turks and Caicos Islands and is expected to squeeze past Bermuda later this week.
About 80 percent of Puerto Rico remained without power early Tuesday, when the storm shut down the island’s entire power system for more than 24 hours, though officials said they were making progress in restoring some of it. Water service was cut to more than 837,000 customers, or two-thirds of the island’s total, officials said.
Both Pedro Pierluisi and distribution company LUMA Energy said a “significant part” of the island would be back on power by Wednesday, the governor reported in the newspaper El Nuevo Día. Pierluisi considers it may take until the weekend to restore power.
The governor also called for a major disaster declaration, which, if approved, would release federal funds for public and personal assistance. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said as part of the announcement he would urge the federal government to cover 100 percent of the cost of disaster relief, rather than the usual 75 percent.
In the Dominican Republic, more than 1 million people are without running water and 700,000 homes and businesses are without power, the National Emergency Operations Center said.
At least three people were reported dead, two in Puerto Rico and one in the Dominican Republic.
picture:Hurricane Fiona floods homes and streets in Puerto Rico
How to help:Check out Mutual Aid, a nonprofit to help support Puerto Ricans
►More rain expected this week In parts of Puerto Rico, the situation is not expected to improve significantly. “Due to the rains from Hurricane Fiona, catastrophic and life-threatening flash floods, urban and moderate to major river flooding, and mudslides are possible in southern and eastern Puerto Rico through Tuesday,” the National Weather Service warned.
►thousands of people displaced At least 2,300 people and 250 pets were in shelters across the island, as Puerto Rico authorities said.
►in Grand Turk, hurricane conditions slammed the capital of the small British territory of the Turks and Caicos Islands. The government imposed a curfew and urged people to flee flood-prone areas.
►For the continental United States, The hurricane is not expected to threaten the United States, forecasters said.
Here’s what we know:
Hurricane Fiona threat intensifies to Category 4
Late Tuesday night, Fiona was centered about 95 miles north of North Caicos, with hurricane strength extending to 30 miles from the center. It had maximum sustained winds of 125 mph and was moving north at 8 mph, according to the hurricane center, which said the storm could intensify into a Category 4 hurricane as it approaches Bermuda on Friday.
FEMA tries to correct Maria’s mistakes
The head of FEMA said Tuesday that the agency will send “hundreds of additional staff” to Puerto Rico over the next few days, in addition to the more than 1,000 people on the island who responded to Hurricane Fiona — about 700 of whom have been helping with recovery from the hurricane Work Maria, attacked with devastating force exactly five years ago.
Deanne Criswell, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was one of the latest to travel to the U.S. territory, arriving on Tuesday to assess the damage and determine what other resources might be needed.
Criswell said in a statement that FEMA intends to “place staff in each affected community to complement our already large footprint.”
That’s in stark contrast to 2017, when FEMA’s response to Maria’s impact on Puerto Rico was widely criticized, leading the agency to acknowledge organizational, preparation and staffing mistakes in its internal report the following year.
The agency said it has increased the number of its warehouses in Puerto Rico from one to four and increased the availability of meals and water 10-fold.
“FEMA is well suited for this response,” said Keith Turi, Recovery Assistant Administrator. “Over the past five years, we have made great progress in planning and preparation with our partners in Puerto Rico and the municipalities.”
Early death toll in Dominican Republic: 1 dead, 12,000 displaced
More than 1,000 residents of the Dominican Republic were living in shelters after Fiona swept across the country on Tuesday. The National Emergency Operations Center said more than 1 million of the country’s nearly 12 million people were without running water, and more than 700,000 homes and businesses were without power.
One person was reported dead, 12,485 people were displaced, 3,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, and four bridges collapsed.
The head of the organization, Juan Manuel Mendez, told Dominica Today, Isidro Odalis Smith, 68, was crushed to death by a fallen tree in the northern town of Nagua, in the province of Sanchez, Maria Trinidad.
President Luis Abinad promised to restore drinking water and electricity services to the community “as soon as possible.” He said authorities needed days to assess the damage.
Officials closed ports and beaches and told most people not to work. The hurricane blocked several highways and a tourist pier in the town of Miches was badly damaged by high waves. Officials said at least four international airports were closed.
how you can help
Advocates stress the importance of supporting local organizations and grassroots mutual aid groups to provide relief on the ground to Puerto Rican communities. Several organisations are providing vital assistance such as solar lights, generators, supplies and food.
To help others in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean recover, here’s one A list of some nonprofits and mutual funds you can support.
More rain for overwhelmed Puerto Rico
The National Weather Service warned of another 1 to 4 inches of rain across much of Puerto Rico by Wednesday morning. In most areas, storm totals have reached 12 to 20 inches, but in some places storm totals have reached 35 inches.
“Additional localized flash floods and urban flooding are possible in southern Puerto Rico,” the Bureau of Meteorology said.
National Guard Brig Gen. Narciso Cruz put the flooding in perspective by comparing the flooding to the flood of water from Category 4 Hurricane Maria that brought on Tuesday five years ago.
“There were communities that were flooded during the storm, and Maria wasn’t,” Cruz said. “I’ve never seen anything like that.”
Fiona made landfall as a Category 1 storm on the southwest coast of Puerto Rico on Sunday afternoon before making landfall again on the east coast of the Dominican Republic early Monday.
2,500 people affected in coastal Salinas
In the hard-hit city of Salinas on Puerto Rico’s southern coast, which is home to about 30,000 people, Mayor Cariline Bonilla estimated that 2,500 people’s homes were flooded. The National Guard led a response team that carried out more than 500 water rescues, and Bonilla thanked the lifesaving efforts that “put themselves at risk.”
“We had to do a massive operation to rescue people in completely flooded areas. Refugees told us that they had been living in some communities for 60 years and had never had an incident on this scale,” Bonilla said.
Minerva Monge, 70, and her husband were rescued by the National Guard after their home flooded to their knees.
“I hope everything calms down and this place dries up and we can come back,” she said.
Biden promises more federal aid
AccuWeather estimates Fiona’s economic impact on the island to be around $10 billion. President Joe Biden, who declared a state of emergency to release federal aid, said he spoke with governors. Pedro Pierre-Louis Monday night. Biden promised a “substantial” increase in support in the coming days.
“Jill and I are praying for the people of Puerto Rico as Hurricane Fiona passes by your beautiful island,” Biden tweeted. “We are here for you and we will get through this together.”
Puerto Rico still recovering from Hurricane Maria 5 years ago
Nearly five years after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on September 9, Fiona hit Puerto Rico. On February 20, 2017, winds topped 155 mph—just 2 mph less than a Category 5 storm.
Maria killed nearly 3,000 people, knocked out power grids and destroyed tens of thousands of homes—about 3,000 of them still covered in tarps.
The bridge built after Maria was swept by Fiona
The damage Fiona caused on the island included a temporary bridge in the city of Utuado, which was built in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Bridges over the Guanica River in the central mountains were washed away by floodwaters when Fiona made landfall on Sunday.
U.S. House of Representatives Representative Roberto Lefranc Fortuño post video The bridge, known as PR-123, was torn and washed away. People can be heard screaming over the click of metal, and a man stands with his hands on his head in disbelief.
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Contributed by: Associated Press