Tech. Science. Culture.
We may earn a commission from links on this page

Hurricane Fiona Brings Island-Wide Blackout and Massive Floods to Puerto Rico

Heavy rain is expected continue through Monday afternoon, and much of the island remains under severe weather warnings.

We may earn a commission from links on this page.
Floodwaters washed away this bridge in Utado, which was installed after 2017's devastating Hurricane Maria.
Gif: Jean Carlos Velez Roman via Storyful (AP)

Hurricane Fiona tore through Puerto Rico on Sunday, knocking out power across the island and unleashing catastrophic flooding. As of writing, more than 1.36 million households are without electricity, according to PowerOutage.us.

The storm killed at least one man in Guadeloupe in the eastern Caribbean. No deaths have been reported so far in Puerto Rico, but the full scope of damage remains unknown, and dangerous conditions persist on the ground. Hundreds of people were evacuated from the hardest hit and most vulnerable areas across the island, the Associated Press reports.

A home is submerged in murky floodwaters amid stormy weather.
A home is submerged in floodwaters caused by Hurricane Fiona in Cayey, Puerto Rico, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022. According to authorities three people were inside the home and were reported to have been rescued.
Photo: Stephanie Rojas (AP)
Advertisement

Fiona has been moving west, and the eye of the storm is now over the Dominican Republic. However, Puerto Rico remains under a tropical storm warning, as bands of heavy rain continue to lash the U.S. territory. Multiple counties in the south and western parts of the island are under flash flood warnings until 2 p.m. local time Monday, according to the National Weather Service.

“Flash flooding is ongoing in PR. Heavy rainfall will only aggravate the current situation. MOVE TO HIGHER GROUND IMMEDIATELY!,” the San Juan NWS said in a tweet.

Advertisement

Wind gusts between 30-40 mph are also still affecting the southern municipalities. At the storm’s peak, winds gusted as fast as 80 mph.

NWS warned that the ongoing flash floods could be “life threatening” and said mudslides and rockfalls are likely. Large landslides have also already been reported in some areas, according to the AP.

Advertisement

As much as 30 inches of rain have already fallen in some isolated areas, while larger swathes the south and east received between 12 and 16 inches. Several more inches are likely.

Advertisement

Fiona made landfall in Puerto Rico just two days before the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria, which killed thousands of people. Notably, Maria also destroyed the island’s power grid and led to the longest blackout in U.S. history, with some areas of the island will without power a year later. Puerto Rico’s public Electric Power Authority declared bankruptcy in May 2017, and private power company LUMA took over the island’s electricity transmission and distribution in 2021.

However, since LUMA’s takeover, there’s been repeated outages and other issues. Four food corporations sued the electric company in April after one particularly widespread, four-day blackout. And earlier this month, Puerto Ricans took to the streets to protest LUMA’s 15-year contract with the island’s government.

At one point on Sunday, the entire island—nearly 1.5 million households—was without power. As of 7 a.m. Monday morning, though, LUMA said it had restored electricity to about 100,000 customers. “Given the size and scope of the outage, as well as ongoing impacts of Hurricane Fiona, full power restoration could take several days,” the company said on its website.

Advertisement

Hurricane Fiona hit Puerto Rico as a Category 1 storm and persists at that strength over the Dominican Republic. Storm category doesn’t necessarily correspond to level of devastation, as slow-moving storms like Fiona can lead to larger total rainfall over a single area and exacerbate infrastructure damage and danger.

By early Tuesday morning, the hurricane is forecast to strengthen to a Category 2 before making landfall in Turks and Caicos and portions of the Bahamas. On Wednesday, the storm is forecast to strengthen even further into a Category 3 hurricane. Fiona is projected to remain off the Atlantic coast of the continental U.S, with a trajectory that centers over Bermuda, and it is eventually expected to hit Nova Scotia and Newfoundland in Canada.