HAVANA — Tropical Storm Fiona was expected to turn into a hurricane as it approached Puerto Rico on Saturday, threatening to dump up to 51 inches of rain as people braced for possible landslides, severe flooding and power outages.
The storm had previously battered several eastern Caribbean islands, with one death reported in the French territory of Guadeloupe. Regional Prefect Alexandre Rochatte told reporters on Saturday that the body was found by the side of the road after floods washed away a house in the capital, Basse-Terre. More than 20 other people were rescued in strong winds and rain, leaving 13,000 customers without power.
Fiona was 90 miles (145 kilometers) south-southeast of St. Croix on Saturday afternoon with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph (95 km/h). It was traveling west at 13 km/h on a path expected to fly near or over Puerto Rico on Sunday evening. Fiona was expected to become a hurricane while moving near Puerto Rico.
“We are already starting to feel the effects,” said Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi. “We should not underestimate this storm.”
He said the expected heavy rains are dangerous as the island’s soil is already saturated. Meanwhile, many Puerto Ricans worry about serious power outages as work to rebuild the island’s power grid, which was destroyed by Hurricane Maria in 2017, has only just begun. The network remains fragile and there are power cuts every day, with around 80,000 customers groping in the dark as early as Saturday.
Fiona is expected to pass the Dominican Republic as a potential hurricane on Sunday and Haiti and the Turks and Caicos Islands on Monday and Tuesday amid threats of extreme rain.
Forecaster issued a hurricane watch for the US Virgin Islands and the south coast of the Dominican Republic from Cabo Engaño west to Cabo Caucedo and for the north coast from Cabo Engaño west to Puerto Plata.
In Puerto Rico, authorities opened shelters and closed public beaches, casinos, theaters and museums as they urged people to stay indoors. Officials also brought hundreds of endangered Puerto Rican parrots to their shelter.
“It’s time to activate your emergency plan and contact and help your relatives, especially older adults who live alone,” said Dr. Gloria Amador, who runs a nonprofit health organization in central Puerto Rico.
Pierluisi said $550 million in emergency funds are available to deal with the aftermath of the storm, along with enough food to feed 200,000 people three times a day for 20 days.
At least one cruise ship visit and several flights to the island were canceled, while authorities in the eastern Caribbean islands canceled school and banned people from water sports while Fiona attacked the region.
On the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, authorities said they had registered wind gusts of up to 120 km/h in what would qualify as a Category 1 hurricane. They also said that 9 inches of rain fell in the Gros Morne area in three hours.
Fiona, the sixth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, is expected to bring 5 to 10 inches (13 to 25 centimeters) of rain in eastern and southern Puerto Rico, up to 51 centimeters (20 inches) in spots. Rain of 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters) has been forecast for the Dominican Republic, with up to 12 inches (30 centimeters) in places. A life-threatening surge from Fiona’s winds was also a possibility, according to forecasters.
Meanwhile, Eastern Pacific Tropical Storm Lester was on a projected path that could make landfall near the Acapulco area of Mexico’s southwest coast Saturday night.
Lester would remain a tropical storm until it hit the Mexican coast. Meteorologists warned of possible dangers from heavy rains.
The storm had maximum sustained wind speeds of 65 km/h on Saturday. It was centered 85 miles (140 kilometers) east-southeast of Acapulco and moving northwest at 17 km/h.
The hurricane center said Lester could drop from 8 to 12 inches (20 to 31 centimeters) of rain on the coasts of upper Guerrero state and Michoacan state, with isolated areas reaching 41 centimeters (16 inches).
The center of the storm is expected to clear up Saturday afternoon.
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https://6abc.com/tropical-storm-fiona-puerto-rico-hurricane-warning-severe-weather-tracking-the-tropics/12236918/ Puerto Rico under hurricane warning as Tropical Storm Fiona approaches