September 19, 2022 Hurricane Fiona slams Puerto Rico

By Dakin Andone, Pete Burn, Mike Hayes and Elise Hammond, CNN

Updated 9:31 PM ET, Mon September 19, 2022
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12:32 p.m. ET, September 19, 2022

New York, New Jersey and California to send first responders to Puerto Rico

From CNN's Melissa Alonso

Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi said Monday that the New York governor will send 100 first responders to assist with recovery efforts after Hurricane Fiona, as soon as weather permits travel. New Jersey and California's governors have also pledged to send help, he said.

FEMA has 400 officials on the island currently dedicated to Hurricane Fiona recovery, Pierluisi said, adding that he plans to request a disaster declaration from President Joe Biden. The President approved an emergency declaration for the storm on Sunday. 

"We're not there yet, we're still in recovery mode," Biden said.

Rain from Fiona caused more widespread flooding across the island than when Hurricane Maria hit in 2017, Puerto Rico officials said at a briefing on Monday.  

There are 2,146 people and 254 pets being housed in 113 shelters as of Monday, said the governor. Officials have had up to 2,300 people in shelters in the past, said Pierluisi. 

11:44 a.m. ET, September 19, 2022

President Biden tells the people of Puerto Rico "we will get through this together"

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez and Kate Sullivan

President Joe Biden issued a message on Monday to the people of Puerto Rico, which is continuing to deal with catastrophic flooding and heavy rainfall caused by Hurricane Fiona.

The message, relayed via the White House’s Spanish language Twitter account, @LaCasaBlanca, translates to, “A message from President Biden on Hurricane Fiona in Puerto Rico: Jill and I hold the people of Puerto Rico in our prayers as Hurricane Fiona passes over your beautiful island. We stand with you and we will get through this together.”

Biden approved an emergency declaration in Puerto Rico on Sunday.

11:35 a.m. ET, September 19, 2022

Hurricane Fiona weakens slightly but intensification is expected in the next few days

From CNN's Monica Garrett

Hurricane Fiona has weakened slightly due to interaction with Hispaniola and now has winds of 85 mph with higher gusts, according to the 11 a.m. ET update from the National Hurricane Center. The center of the hurricane is moving off the northern coast of the Dominican Republic near eastern Samana Bay, which should allow it to begin to strengthen again later today.

Heavy rains from Fiona will continue to produce life-threatening and catastrophic flooding along with mudslides and landslides across Puerto Rico through tonight, the hurricane update said. Life-threatening flash and urban flooding is likely for eastern portions of the Dominican Republic through early Tuesday. 

During the next two to three days, the hurricane should gradually turn toward the north-northwest and north with steady strengthening, becoming a major hurricane within the next couple of days.

Hurricane conditions are expected in the Turks and Caicos on Tuesday, and tropical storm conditions are expected in the southeastern Bahamas by late Monday or early Tuesday.

Here's a look at the latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center:

10:58 a.m. ET, September 19, 2022

Puerto Rico's Guanajibo River surpasses the height record set during Hurricane Maria

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy and Brandon Miller

Rainfall from Hurricane Fiona has swollen the Guanajibo River in Hormigueros, Puerto Rico, surpassing its previous record height set during Hurricane Maria.

The Guanajibo River is at 29.2 feet, according to the National Weather Service. Its past record, set during Hurricane Maria on September 20, 2017, was 28.59 feet. According to NOAA/USGS river gauge data, the river rose 17 feet in about 12 hours from Sunday into Sunday evening. The river starts overflowing its banks at 21-22 feet. 

The Municipality of Mayaguez — Hormigueros is located in the municipality on the western side of the island — says it is continuing to conduct rescues in the area.

3:53 p.m. ET, September 19, 2022

More than 1 million are still without power in Puerto Rico as Fiona churns in the Caribbean 

From CNN's Melissa Alonso

A truck is seen next to downed power lines in Cayey, Puerto Rico as the island awoke to a general power outage on September 19.
A truck is seen next to downed power lines in Cayey, Puerto Rico as the island awoke to a general power outage on September 19. (Jose Jimenez/Getty Images)

More than a million people remain without power in Puerto Rico Monday morning after Hurricane Fiona knocked power out across the island.

LUMA Energy officials said Monday morning that they have "restored electrical service to 100,000 customers."

Electricity has been repaired for some "within the municipalities of Toa Alta, Toa Baja, the San Juan metropolitan area, Bayamón and Corozal," the company tweeted. 

LUMA urged residents to stay away from downed wires as crews continue to work in hazardous conditions. 

The Puerto Rican energy company operates and manages the electric power transmission and distribution system on the island, according to its company website.

10:03 a.m. ET, September 19, 2022

Fiona pummels Puerto Rico as some parts of the island remain scarred from Hurricane Maria

From CNN's Layla Santiago

As Fiona is moving slowly to the northwest on Monday, it is still dropping flooding rain on Puerto Rico, where more than 1.4 million people are without power. Some parts of the island still bear the scars of Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico almost exactly five years ago.

After Hurricane Maria inflicted catastrophic damage to the territory’s infrastructure, it took almost a year for power to be restored across the island.

Samuel Rivera and his mother Lourdes Rodriguez lived without power for about a year after Maria struck, Rivera told CNN’s Layla Santiago. On Sunday morning, they lost power once again, conjuring up similar fears to those they had five years ago.

They said they are also concerned a nearby river may overflow and the trees surrounding their home may be felled by the powerful winds.

Some more context: The hurricane made landfall on the southwestern coast of Puerto Rico Sunday afternoon, bearing down on the island with severe winds of up to 75 miles per hour and bringing 6-24 inches of rain to some areas by the end of the day, according to the National Weather Service.

Fiona will continue to pummel Puerto Rico and eastern portions of the Dominican Republic into Monday. Eastern areas of the Dominican Republic may also see flooding as well as mudslides and landslides in higher areas, according to the hurricane center. Fiona could bring a total of up to 30 inches of rainfall to Puerto Rico and up to 12 inches to eastern and northern Dominican Republic.

LUMA Energy, the main power utility in Puerto Rico, said in a statement Sunday it could be days before power is restored, adding “several transmission line outages” are contributing to the blackout. The process will be done “gradually,” Governor Pedro Pierluisi said in a Facebook post.

The website PowerOutage.us reported the entire island was without power, early Monday morning, adding LUMA had “reenergized some circuits, however there is limited information, and no numbers on how many customers have been restored.”

Power outages have become a familiar crisis for many who live in Puerto Rico. Just five months ago, residents experienced another islandwide blackout after a fire broke out in a power plant.

9:32 a.m. ET, September 19, 2022

Here's what to expect as Fiona continues to trek across the Dominican Republic

From CNN's Brandon Miller

Hurricane Fiona made landfall in the Dominican Republic early today after slamming Puerto Rico with heavy rain, life-threatening flooding and an islandwide power outage.

The storm is continuing to move northwestward. Here's a look at what to expect next:

  • This morning: The center of Fiona — a 90 mph, Category 1 hurricane — will move over the eastern portion of the Dominican Republic during the next few hours and emerge over the southwestern Atlantic this afternoon.
  • The conditions on the island: Hurricane conditions are impacting portions of the Dominican Republic along with heavy rain. Northern and eastern Dominican Republic are forecast an additional 4 to 6 inches with a local maximum of 8 inches. Storm totals could be up to 15 inches for the eastern part of the country. Life-threatening flash and urban flooding are likely for eastern portions of the Dominican Republic.
  • Strengthening expected: As Fiona moves away from land, more significant strengthening is expected over the next few days, becoming a major hurricane on Wednesday.
  • The next island in Fiona's path: The center is forecast to pass near or to the east of the Turks and Caicos on Tuesday as a Category 2 hurricane. Hurricane conditions are expected in the Turks and Caicos on Tuesday, and tropical storm conditions are expected in the southeastern Bahamas by late Monday or early Tuesday.
  • Later this week: Fiona will continue turning northward and then northeastward this week, nearing Bermuda on Friday as a major hurricane.

Here's a look at the latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center:

8:55 a.m. ET, September 19, 2022

Hospitals in San Juan's medical complex have power and patients are safe, health secretary says

From CNN's Melissa Alonso

Hospitals in San Juan’s medical complex have power after Hurricane caused an islandwide blackout Sunday, Puerto Rico Health Secretary Dr. Carlos Mellado López said on Twitter on Sunday.

"The power system at all the hospitals in the Medical Center Complex has been restored," Dr. Mellado said, referring to the island’s most important medical complex, which stretches across 227 acres. "Our patients are safe and receiving the medical care they need.”

Still, even with the help of LUMA Energy technicians, who helped get generators online after the power went out, health care providers decided to transfer eight cancer patients to the Oncological Hospital. The decision was made swiftly and with the well-being of patients in mind, said Mellado.

"I appreciate the personnel from the Puerto Rico Fire Department, emergency medical staff and Disaster Management-NMEAD for the transfer of patients to the Oncological Hospital," the secretary said.

8:19 a.m. ET, September 19, 2022

Fiona has hit the Dominican Republic — but there are still consequences ahead for Puerto Rico

From CNN meteorologist Monica Garrett

A home is submerged in floodwaters caused by Hurricane Fiona in Cayey, Puerto Rico on September 18.
A home is submerged in floodwaters caused by Hurricane Fiona in Cayey, Puerto Rico on September 18. (Stephanie Rojas/Associated Press)

Fiona — currently boasting sustained winds of 90 miles per hour — remains over the eastern Dominican Republic. But the storm’s impacts continue to be felt in Puerto Rico, where heavy rainfall and catastrophic flooding continue across much of the US territory. 

Nearly the entire island remains under flash flood and flood warnings. More than a foot of rainfall has been reported in several locations, and one reporting station north of the city of Ponce reported over 2 feet of rain in the last 24 hours. 

Southern Puerto Rico can expect an additional 4 to 6 inches, with up to 10 inches maximum possible in some locations. That would result in a storm total of 12 to 20 inches of rain, with local maximums of 30 inches. 

These rains will continue to produce life-threatening and catastrophic flooding along with mudslides and landslides across Puerto Rico. 

Fiona is expected to strengthen as it moves away from the Dominican Republic later Monday, heading north over warm water. By Tuesday morning, the storm is forecast to be near the eastern Turks and Caicos Islands. There, it will continue to turn north before shifting to the northeast, nearing Bermuda on Friday as a major hurricane.