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Tropical Storm Fiona: Puerto Rico braces for flooding and mudslides as strengthening storm approaches



CNN
 — 

Tropical Storm Fiona could strengthen into a hurricane by the time it hits Puerto Rico on Sunday, bringing with it the threats of flooding and mudslides, the latest update from the National Hurricane Center said.

But the storm’s impacts have already been felt: At least one death has already been reported in Basse-Terre in the French territory of Guadeloupe, according to the vice president of the territory’s environmental agency, who said the capital had been devastated by flooding. And in Puerto Rico, nearly 260,000 customers were without power as of 9:15 a.m. ET Sunday, according to PowerOutage.us.

The storm is bearing down on Puerto Rico about 65 miles south-southeast of the city of Ponce with sustained winds of 70 miles per hour – just shy of a Category 1 hurricane, which has sustained winds of at least 74 miles per hour. Heavy rain and tropical storm-force winds are already occurring across the US Virgin Islands and much of Puerto Rico.

Fiona’s center, on the current forecast, is expected to approach Sunday morning before moving near or over southwestern Puerto Rico in the afternoon or evening.

Fiona's current forecast storm track across the Atlantic.

Very heavy rainfall of 12 to 16 inches is forecast across a wide swath of Puerto Rico, with most of the rain expected Sunday, and isolated locations across southern and eastern Puerto Rico could see up to 25 inches, per the hurricane center. The northern and eastern Dominican Republic, too, is forecast to see 4 to 8 inches of rain, with isolated totals up to 12 inches possible.

“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 hurricane center said.

Storm surge presents another threat, and it could raise water levels by as much as 1 to 3 feet above normal tide levels along Puerto Rico’s southern coast and in the Dominican Republic, where onshore winds will be strongest.

Forecast rainfall accumulations due to Tropical Storm Fiona.

A hurricane warning – indicating hurricane conditions are expected – was issued for Puerto Rico, including the islands of Vieques and Culebra, and later expanded to include the eastern Dominican Republic from Cabo Caucedo to Cabo Frances Viejo. The US Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic’s northern coast, from Cabo Frances Viejo west to Puerto Plata, are under a hurricane watch Sunday morning, meaning hurricane conditions are possible in the next 48 hours.

President Joe Biden on Sunday morning approved an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico, freeing up federal resources, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, for emergency response and disaster relief efforts.

The threat won’t end once the storm passes between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic: Further strengthening is forecast, and the storm could become a Category 2 hurricane as it tracks east of the Bahamas, where the government issued a tropical storm watch for the southeastern Bahamas and a tropical storm watch or the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Tropical storm conditions are possible in the Turks and Caicos and the southeastern Bahamas by late Monday or early Tuesday.



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