Tropical storm Fiona gained strength on Saturday as it headed toward Puerto Rico, prompting the National Hurricane Center (NHC) to issue a hurricane warning and alerts for “life-threatening floods and mudlsides” for the U.S. territory and watches for the U.S. Virgin Islands.
One man was found dead in the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, after heavy rains from the massive storm swept away his house in the Basse-Terre district, according to local authorities. read more
The storm was located about 70 miles (115 km) southeast of St Croix with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph (95 kph) as of late-afternoon, according to NHC. It was expected to become a hurricane on Sunday and into Sunday night, as it moved near Puerto Rico. A storm is considered a Category 1 hurricane when sustained windspeeds reach 74 mph or greater.
The island was braced for up to 20-inches (51 cm) of rain and high winds that could bring flooding, mudslides and power outages.
“Hurricane conditions are expected across portions of Puerto Rico Sunday and Sunday night, and are possible across the U.S. Virgin Islands (Saturday night) and Sunday,” NHC said.
Heavy rains from Fiona were also due to spread to the Dominican Republican on Sunday and to the Turks and Caicos Islands on Monday night.
On Saturday, residents in Puerto Rico were bracing for severe power outages as the island’s grid remained fragile after Hurricane Maria in September 2017 caused the largest blackout in U.S. history. In that category 5 storm, 1.5 million customers lost electricity with 80% of power lines knocked out.
Authorities have opened about 80 shelters and closed beaches and casinos, and residents were urged to seek shelter.
Governor Pedro Pierluisi signed a state of emergency Saturday and warned residents, “We should not underestimate this storm in the least. The government is active and prepared to respond to the emergency.”
“We expect that during the night, the winds and rain will intensify,” Pierluisi said.”We all want the (electric) service to improve, but now what is important is the response, that we are prepared.”
Abner Gómez, a spokesman for LUMA Energy, operator of the island’s power grid, said that the storm will cause outages, “But we will be ready to respond.”
“The same thing that happened during Maria is not going to happen here,” Gómez said.
Reporting by Ivelisse Rivera in San Juan, David Morgan in Washington and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Franklin Paul and David Gregorio
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