Fiona has intensified to a Category 1 hurricane with sustained winds of 80 mph and gusts of up to 100 mph as it lashes the Caribbean Sea about 50 miles south of Puerto Rico, posing the threat of flooding and mudslides. The latest updates from the Hurricane Center.
The storm’s effects are already visible: At least 1 death has been reported in Basseterre, Guadeloupe, France, According to the vice president The region’s environment agency said the capital had been devastated by flooding.in Puerto Rico – More than 470,000 customers were without power as of noon ET Sunday, and the National Weather Service said flash flooding had begun, according to PowerOutage.us.
The hurricane — the third of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season — is heading toward Puerto Rico, south of the city of Ponce, the Hurricane Center said. Winds are expected to increase along the coastline, and conditions are expected to worsen throughout Sunday afternoon and evening as Fiona moves near or over southwestern Puerto Rico.
Fiona’s center has the potential to bypass Puerto Rico, ruling out a traditional “landing.” But in any case, the impact of the storm is the same.
“Over the next 48 hours, Fiona is expected to strengthen further as it moves over Puerto Rico, near the Dominican Republic, and over the southwestern Atlantic,” the Hurricane Center said. “Hurricane conditions are expected in Puerto Rico today, with expectations for tonight and Monday. There will be a hurricane in parts of the eastern Dominican Republic.”
The National Weather Service warned on Sunday that catastrophic flooding would be life-threatening, with flash flood warnings issued for southern and eastern Puerto Rico, including Ponce and Yabucoa, until at least mid-afternoon. The flooding began after an estimated 1 to 2 inches of rain had fallen, the service said.
Heavy rainfall of 12 to 16 inches is expected across swathes of Puerto Rico, with most of it expected Sunday, with up to 25 inches likely in remote areas of southern and eastern Puerto Rico, according to the hurricane center.
4 to 8 inches of rain is also forecast in the northern and eastern Dominican Republic, with isolated totals likely to be as high as 12 inches.
“These rains will cause life-threatening flash floods and urban flooding in eastern Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, as well as mudslides and landslides in higher-lying areas,” the Hurricane Center said.
Authorities have already responded to such landslides: Emergency officials responded Saturday night to a landslide at an apartment complex in Guaynabo around 8 p.m. ET, According to fire and public safety officials. There are no initial reports of injuries.
Another threat is storm surge, which could raise water levels 1 to 3 feet above normal on the southern coast of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, where onshore winds will be strongest.
A hurricane warning was issued for Puerto Rico, indicating hurricane conditions were expected, including the islands of Vieques and Culebra, and later expanded to include the eastern Dominican Republic, from Cabo Caucedo to Cabo Francis Viejo. The U.S. Virgin Islands and the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, from Frances Viejo west to Puerto Plata, were under a hurricane watch Sunday morning, meaning hurricane conditions are likely for the next 48 hours.
How to prepare for a hurricane
On Sunday morning, President Joe Biden approved Puerto Rico’s emergency declaration, freeing up federal resources, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, for emergency response and disaster relief efforts.
The threat will not end once the storm passes between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Further strengthening is expected, and the official forecast track suggests Fiona could become a major hurricane by Wednesday as it moves toward the eastern Bahamas and Bermuda.
“Fiona is likely to be the first major hurricane of this Atlantic season within a few days,” the Hurricane Center said.