Hurricane Fiona roared over the Dominican Republic on Monday after knocking out power across the U.S. island territory of Puerto Rico, where the governor described the damage as “catastrophic.”
No deaths have been reported, but many people were left without water service in Puerto Rico. The full scope of the damage from high winds and torrential rains has yet to be assessed.
The island’s U.S. National Weather Service office said flash flooding was occurring in south-central parts of Puerto Rico and urged residents to immediately move to higher ground. Up to 56 centimeters of rain fell in some places, and as much as another 38 centimeters were predicted even as the storm moved away.
Authorities also projected 38 centimeters of rain for the eastern Dominican Republic and told most people to stay home from work. Ports were closed and beaches were shut down.
“Heavy rains from Fiona will continue to produce life-threatening and catastrophic flooding along with mudslides and landslides across Puerto Rico” through Monday night, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said.
“Life-threatening flash and urban flooding is likely for eastern portions of the Dominican Republic through early Tuesday,” the hurricane center said.
Forecasters say the Category 1 storm is not expected to threaten the U.S. mainland.
At last report, Fiona was moving into the Atlantic, traveling northwest at 15 kilometers an hour, with tropical storm-force winds extending out for 220 kilometers.
The latest bulletin said Fiona was 270 kilometers southeast of Grand Turk Island in the Turks and Caicos Islands with maximum sustained winds of 150 kilometers per hour.
Forecasters say the storm was expected to pass close to the islands on Tuesday and likely to strengthen in the coming days.
It could near Bermuda as a major hurricane late Thursday or on Friday.
Puerto Rico’s Governor Pedro Pierluisi said, “The damages that we are seeing are catastrophic.”
In the north coast town of Catano, authorities in a boat navigated flooded streets before dawn on Monday, using a megaphone to tell people that pumps had collapsed and urged them to evacuate as quickly as possible.
Officials said at least 1,300 people spent the night in shelters across Puerto Rico. Muddy water rushed through streets and into homes and consumed a runway airport in southern Puerto Rico. Roofs were torn off some houses and asphalt was ripped from roads.
Some material in this report came from The Associated Press.