Disasters & Accidents

Hurricane Fiona slams Puerto Rico, causing huge power outage

Miami, Sep 18 (EFE).- Hurricane Fiona made landfall on Sunday afternoon in southwestern Puerto Rico packing maximum sustained winds of 140 kilometers (85 miles) per hour, according to the Miami-based National Hurricane Center.

The storm’s fury brought down trees and power lines, causing the local electric grid to go down, plunging virtually all the island into the dark.

The eye of the third such storm of the Atlantic hurricane season made landfall at Punta Tocon at 3:20 pm.

Fiona caused a general blackout across the island, according to LUMA Energy, the local electricity transmission firm, which said on Twitter that it would probably take “several days” to restore power completely.

Puerto Rican Gov. Pedro Pierluisi, confirmed the blackout and said that emergency protocols had been activated to deal with the problem.

Puerto Rico’s electric grid is very fragile, especially since Hurricane Maria, which five years ago devastated the island and virtually wiped out its electrical network, leaving a large portion of the public without power for months.

The NHC said that “catastrophic” flooding could occur and “very dangerous” winds accompany the storm, which is located some 25 km (15 mi.) southeast of Mayaguez and is moving to the northwest at 15 kph (9 mph).

According to the NHC, the hurricane could produce storm surge flooding of 30-90 centimeters (1 to 3 feet) on normally dry land along Puerto Rico’s eastern and southern coasts, as well as on the islands of Vieques and Culebra.

Fiona could also dump 30-40 cm (12-16 inches) of rain on much of the island, and possibly up to 63 cm (25 in.) in certain spots.

The rain poses an extreme risk of possibly deadly flooding, especially in the southern and eastern parts of the US commonwealth, the NHC said.

Fiona, a Category 1 storm on the 5-point Saffir-Simpson scale, brings not only the risk of torrential rain, but also flooding, mudslides, storm surge and strong ocean riptide currents.

The storm could also bring “very dangerous winds” and heavy flooding to the Dominican Republic on Sunday night, authorities said.

The NHC warned that the winds could cause damage to well-constructed wooden homes, especially to the roofs, the rooftiles, vinyl siding and gutters.

Fiona is presently moving toward the northern coast of the Dominican Republic and should strike there on Sunday night or Monday, and it will approach the eastern portion of the Turks and Caicos Islands on Tuesday.

So far during this year’s Atlantic storm season, which began on June 1 and will end on Nov. 30, there have been three hurricanes – Danielle, Earl and Fiona – along with Tropical Storms Alex, Bonnie and Colin.

EFE ims/cpy/bp

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