Hurricane Fiona brought more rain to Puerto Rico on Monday, a day laterElectricity and water were cut off to most of the island, and National Guard forces rescued hundreds of stranded people.
And the governor warned that it could take days to get the lights back on.
The blow from Fiona was even more devastating because Puerto Rico had yet to recover from Hurricane Maria, which killed nearly 3,000 people and devastated the power grid in 2017. Five years later, more than 3,000 homes on the island are still covered in blue tarps.
The storm stripped roads, ripped off roofs and pushed torrential rain into homes. It also destroyed a bridge and flooded two airports.
Authorities reported two deaths from the hurricane – a Puerto Rican man who was swept away by a flooded river and a person in the Dominican Republic who was hit by a falling tree.
The storm is still expected to drop as much as 15 inches of rain in some places as it moves away from the US mainland of 3.2 million people.
Forecasts called for the storm to turn into a major hurricane of Category 3 or greater. It was on its way to pass near the Turks and Caicos Islands on Tuesday and was not expected to threaten the US mainland.
Officials said one death in Puerto Rico was linked to a power outage – a 70-year-old man burned to death after trying to fill his generator with gasoline while it was running.
Governor Pedro Pierluisi declined to say how long it would take to fully restore electricity, but said that for most customers it would be a “matter of days”.
Since the storm began, National Guard forces have rescued more than 900 lives, General Jose Reyes said at a press conference.
Meanwhile, in the Dominican Republic, authorities have closed ports and beaches and told most people to stay home from work. Nearly 800 people were evacuated to safer locations, officials said, and more than 700 were in shelters.
The hurricane caused several highways to be closed and a tourist pier in Michis Township was badly damaged by the waves. Officials said at least four international airports were closed.
Dominican President Luis Abenader said authorities would need several days to assess the effects of the storm.
Back in Puerto Rico, the Office of the National Weather Service said flooding was occurring in the south-central parts of the island, and tweeted, “Go to higher ground immediately!”
Up to 22 inches of rain fell in some areas of Puerto Rico, and forecasters said another 4 to 8 inches could fall as the storm moves in, with more likely in some places.
“It’s important for people to understand that it’s not over yet,” said Ernesto Morales, a meteorologist with the San Juan Meteorological Service.
He said the flooding had reached “historic levels” as authorities evacuated or rescued hundreds of people across Puerto Rico.
“The damage we’re seeing is catastrophic,” Pierluisi said.
More than 837,000 consumers – two-thirds of the island’s total – had water service cut off due to turbid water at purification plants or a lack of electricity, officials said.
National Hurricane Center He said Monday evening “Heavy rain” from Fiona will continue to fall over Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic all night long. As of 5 p.m. ET on Monday, it was centered about 130 miles southeast of Grand Turk Island and was moving northwest at 10 mph, with maximum winds of 100 mph.
FEMA Director Dean Cresswell said in a statement to CBS News Sunday night that the agency “actively supports” Puerto Rico and “immediately deployed hundreds of FEMA personnel before the storm made landfall.”
“Our focus is now on efforts to save lives and respond to immediate needs such as energy recovery,” Cresswell said.
An official in the Biden administration told CBS News on Monday that more than 300 Federal Reserve personnel are already in Puerto Rico. This included energy recovery experts from the US Army Corps of Engineers, along with FEMA Urban Search and Rescue teams.
The official said more federal responders are scheduled to arrive in the coming days. FEMA is working with Puerto Rican power distribution company Luma to return power to the island, and has also brought in generators.
Lama tweeted on Monday evening that brought back the power For about 200,000 customers, including a hospital.
Monday afternoon, President Biden Share a picture About himself talking on the phone with Pierluisi.
“Today, I spoke with GovPierluisi to address the immediate needs of Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Fiona,” the president said. “We discussed federal employees working to help with the island’s recovery, and I assured the governor that we would be increasing support significantly in the coming days.”
Before dawn on Monday, authorities on a boat swept the flooded streets of the northern coastal town of Katano and used a loudspeaker to alert people to the collapse of the pumps, urging them to evacuate as quickly as possible.
Authorities said at least 1,300 people spent the night in shelters across the island.
Brown water flowed into streets and homes, and the airports in Ponce and Mayaguez were closed.
The system also tore asphalt off roads and swept a bridge in the mountainous central town of Ottoado that police said was erected by the National Guard after Maria was hit by a Category 4 storm.
Fiona also tore down rooftops, including Nelson Sereno’s home in the northern coastal town of Luisa.
“I was sleeping and I saw when the corrugated metal went out,” he said, watching the rain drench his belongings and the wind draping his colorful curtains in the air.
After the Dominican Republic roared, Fiona moved into the open Atlantic, where it was expected to strengthen, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Fiona previously hit the eastern Caribbean, killing a man in the French province of Guadeloupe when his home was swept away by floodwaters, officials said.
The system hit Puerto Rico on the anniversary of Hurricane Hugo, which hit the island in 1989 as a Category 3 storm.