Hurricane Fiona knocks out power to entire Puerto Rico

Hurricane Fiona knocks out power to entire Puerto Rico
A lifeguard watches from the beach before the arrival of Hurricane Kay in Los Cabos, Mexico, 6 September 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Jorge Reyes)

Hurricane Fiona knocked out public power to all 3.1 million residents of Puerto Rico on Sunday as it neared the US territory with 137km/h winds and driving rain. 

In a Twitter post, Governor Pedro Pierluisi confirmed that the island’s ailing electrical system was completely offline.

“We have activated all of the protocols to deal with this situation,” he wrote.

Luma Energy, which manages the island’s troubled power grid, warned that it could take “several days” to completely restore power to 1.4 million households due to the “magnitude and reach” of the damage.

Fiona was upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane on Sunday morning as the wall of its eye approached the southern coast of Puerto Rico.

As of 2pm local time, Fiona was hovering 40km southwest of Ponce, Puerto Rico, packing sustained winds of 137km/h with higher gusts, the National Hurricane Center said.

Fiona is expected to dump 300mm-400mm of rain across the island and 100mm-200mm across northern and eastern Dominican Republic.

“These rains will produce life-threatening flash flooding and urban flooding across Puerto Rico and the eastern Dominican Republic, along with mudslides and landslides in areas of higher terrain,” the agency said.

The Biden administration on Sunday approved an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico, a US territory.

Also Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron said he would declare a state of natural disaster in the French overseas territory of Guadeloupe, where Fiona left one person dead. Eastern portions of the Dominican Republic are also under a hurricane warning.

Fiona comes almost five years after a powerful Category 4 hurricane, Maria, slammed into Puerto Rico, leading to nearly 3,000 deaths and billions of dollars in property damage.

The island has some of the most expensive and least reliable energy of any US jurisdiction. After Maria, it took the public power utility almost a year to completely restore service.

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