Hurricane Fiona grew more powerful Tuesday as it rolled past Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic after pounding the islands with up to 30 inches of rain, triggering overwhelming flooding, mudslides, and leaving much of the islands in ruin.
More than 80% of Puerto Rico remained without power Tuesday, more than 24 hours after the storm shut down the entire electrical system. More than 100,000 homes and businesses had no running water.
At least three deaths were reported, two in Puerto Rico and one in the Dominican Republic.
More rain was forecast through the week and conditions were not expected to vastly improve.
“Catastrophic and life-threatening flash, urban, and moderate to major river flooding, as well as mudslides, are likely for southern and eastern Puerto Rico through Tuesday due the rainfall from Hurricane Fiona,” the National Weather Service warned.
Hurricane Fiona floods homes, streets in Puerto Rico: See the people and places impacted
Here’s what we know:
The storm strengthened to a Category 3 storm overnight with sustained winds of 115 mph. The hurricane, moving north-northwest at 10 mph, was centered about 20 miles southeast of Grand Turk Island, which was bracing for a severe hit.
AccuWeather estimated the economic impact on the island from Fiona to be about $10 billion. President Joe Biden, who previously declared a state of emergency to release federal aid to Puerto Rico, said he had spoken with Gov. Pedro Pierluisi late Monday. Biden promised to increase support “substantially” in the coming days.
“Jill and I are keeping the people of Puerto Rico in our prayers as Hurricane Fiona passes over your beautiful island,” Biden tweeted. “We are here for you, and we will get through this together.”
Fiona slammed Puerto Rico almost five years to the day after Hurricane Maria, a Category 5 storm with wind speeds exceeding 170 mph, slammed across the island.
Maria’s death toll reached nearly 3,000 people, destroyed the power grid and devastated tens pf thousands of homes – thousands of which remain covered by tarps.
The destruction wrought across the island included a bridge in the Puerto Rican city of Utuado that was built following Hurricane Maria. The bridge over the Guaonica River in the central mountain region, was destroyed Sunday, the same day Fiona made landfall on the island.
U.S. House Delegate Roberto Lefranc Fortuño posted video of the bridge, known as PR-123, tearing apart and washing away. People can be heard screaming amid the loud clattering of metal as a man stands with his hands on his head in disbelief.
In the Dominican Republic, President Luis Abinader said authorities would need several days to assess the storm’s effects.
Officials closed ports and beaches and told most people to stay home from work. The hurricane left several highways blocked, and a tourist pier in the town of Miches was badly damaged by high waves. At least four international airports were closed, officials said.
Abinader pledged to restore drinking water and electrical service to affected communities “as soon as possible.”
Contributing: The Associated Press