The latest: The center of Fiona was heading for the eastern Dominican Republic on Sunday evening, but heavy rainfall and “catastrophic” flooding continued to pummel much Of Puerto Rico, according to a National Hurricane Center tweet.
The big picture: The storm is dumping more than two feet of rain in Puerto Rico, “causing catastrophic” flooding, the National Hurricane Center warns. Hurricane-force winds have taken out the island’s fragile power grid.
- Fiona made landfall near Punta Tocon, on the island’s southeastern coast, around 3:20 p.m. local time with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph, per an NHC tweet.
- The storm has seen winds increase by 15 mph since the NHC updated on then-Tropical Storm Fiona at 8 a.m. ET.
Zoom in: Fiona is a Category 1 hurricane and is expected to remain so through landfall in Puerto Rico.
- Ponce, on the southern side of the island, has seen sustained winds of 69 mph with a maximum wind gust of 103 mph, per the Hurricane Center.
- President Biden has declared a federal disaster for Puerto Rico, mobilizing the delivery of aid to the island.
Threat level: The storm was likely to bring torrential rains to Puerto Rico through Monday, with a widespread area of 12 to 18 inches of rain expected. Higher amounts will fall in some locations, particularly in higher elevations, where up to 30 inches could fall in a short period of time.
- “These rains will produce life-threatening and catastrophic flash flooding and urban flooding across Puerto Rico and the eastern Dominican Republic, along with mudslides and landslides in areas of higher terrain,” the Hurricane Center warned as of 2 p.m. Sunday.
- Nearly the entire island was under a flash flood warning as of 5:00 p.m. ET.
Meanwhile, heavy rains and hurricane-force winds were expected in eastern areas of the Dominican Republic on Sunday night and Monday.
- Puerto Rico’s power grid, which was severely damaged during Hurricane Maria in 2017, has faltered, with nearly 1.5 million customers without power as of 7 p.m. ET, according to Poweroutage.us.
What they’re saying: “The damages that we are seeing are catastrophic,” Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi said.
What we’re watching: The test for utility operators now will be how quickly they can restore power once the storm passes.
Of note: NOAA scientists managed to sail a remotely operated “Sail Drone” into the eye of Hurricane Fiona, which helped validate their intensity estimate.
- Storm surge flooding of 1 to 3 feet above normally dry land is expected along the south shore of Puerto Rico on Saturday, provided the peak surge hits at high tide.
- The NWS in San Juan was issuing flash flood warnings throughout Sunday as the rains cause rivers and streams to rise. Video from social media shows torrents of water washing away bridges, power lines and other infrastructure in southwestern Puerto Rico.
- The storm previously caused damaging flooding after dumping nearly 20 inches of rain on the French island of Guadeloupe late last week.
What’s next: Fiona is expected to continue to intensify once it moves northwest of Puerto Rico and north of the Dominican Republic. The storm is expected to turn slowly to the north by midweek as it moves near or over the Turks and Caicos Islands.
- It’s expected that the storm will become the season’s first “major” Atlantic hurricane of the season, at Category 3 intensity or greater by midweek.
- Most computer models now take the storm out to sea well east of the mainland U.S., but it could be a threat to Bermuda late in the week.
Editor’s note: This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.
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