Skittish Puerto Ricans intensified Fiona into a hurricane on Sunday, nearly five years after a blockbuster system devastated the island and left thousands of people stranded.
Forecasters warned that Fiona could be vulnerable to deadly flooding and landslides along the southern coast.
“It is time to act and be concerned,” said Puerto Rico’s Emergency Management Commissioner Nino Correa.
Accuweather said Puerto Rico was already feeling Fiona’s effects early Sunday and the situation would only worsen.
Hurricane Fiona Trajectory
Fiona was located about 50 miles south of Ponce, Puerto Rico on Sunday morning and had maximum sustained winds of 80 mph, National Hurricane Center Told. The storm was moving to the west-northwest at 8 mph.
The center of the storm was expected to move near or over Puerto Rico, the US territory of 3.2 million people, on Sunday afternoon or evening, the hurricane center said Sunday night and Monday before moving near the north coast of the Dominican Republic.
Torrential rain and landslides are expected in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, the Hurricane Center said.
Accuweather said that Fiona could move on a track towards Bermuda, following her way to the Caribbean and the Bahamas.
“Additional strengthening is forecast…” before reaching Puerto Rico’s south or southwest coast on Sunday, the center said.
A hurricane warning was in effect for parts of the coast of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic on Sunday.
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How much rain is expected?
Forecasters said 12 to 16 inches of rain were expected in Fiona and up to 25 inches in isolated places in eastern and southern Puerto Rico.
The storm could affect cities and towns along the southern coast that are still recovering from a series of powerful earthquakes in 2019.
“These rains will produce life-threatening flooding and urban flooding in Puerto Rico and the eastern Dominican Republic, as well as landslides and landslides in high areas,” the Hurricane Center warned.
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What was the storm that devastated the island?
AccuWeather said that Fiona would not be a giant system when Hurricane Maria made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane on September 20, 2017, but it is still a serious threat.
Maria was devastating to the island, causing at least 3,000 deaths. Thousands of homes, roads and recreational areas have yet to be repaired or rebuilt. The Associated Press reported that the government has completed only 21% of more than 5,500 official post-hurricane projects, and seven of the island’s 78 municipalities report that not a single project has started.
“I think all of us Puerto Ricans who have lived through Maria have that post-traumatic stress of, ‘What’s going to happen, how long is this going to last and what needs are we going to face? ‘” said resident Danny Hernandez.
Hernandez, who works in the capital of San Juan, said he plans to ride out the storm with family in the western city of Mayaguez.
Hernandez said residents who stocked up on grocery stores were terrified. “After Maria, we all experienced some degree of scarcity,” he said.
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Worried about power?
Hurricane Maria destroyed Puerto Rico’s power grid. The grid is still very fragile and is in the process of reconstruction; Outages are frequent.
Ahead of Fiona, Luma, the company that operates power transmission and distribution, warned of “extensive service interruptions”. As of Sunday morning, more than 320,000 customers were without electricity.
Will Fiona have a direct impact on America?
Accuweather said the likelihood of a direct impact on the US mainland has diminished over the past week, but the storm could whip up dangerous surf and strong rip currents along the East Coast later this week.
How has the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season been so far?
The Atlantic hurricane season has got off to a slow start. For the first time in 25 years, there were no hurricanes until August, and no hurricanes have directly affected the US. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the first hurricane of the Atlantic season usually develops by August 11.
Quiet August:August has not been devoid of tropical storms since 1997. Is hurricane season over?
The season officially began on 1 June and runs until 30 November. The peak of the season is usually around September 17.
Contribution: Doyle Rice, The Associated Press