Hurricane Fiona made landfall on the eastern coast of the Dominican Republic on Monday morning, a day after the storm knocked out power to the entire island of Puerto Rico nearby and caused what the governor there called “catastrophic” damages.
More than 1.3 million customers in Puerto Rico were without electricity Monday morning, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks power interruptions. Puerto Rico’s power company, LUMA, said it had restored power to about 100,000 customers but warned that full restoration could take several days.
Even as the storm moved west, heavy rain from its outer bands was expected in Puerto Rico through Monday afternoon and in the Dominican Republic through Monday night. The rain will be heavy enough to produce what the National Weather Service called “life-threatening and catastrophic flooding” along with mudslides and landslides across Puerto Rico on Monday. It also warned of life-threatening flash floods in urban areas of the Dominican Republic.
Fiona is expected to move over the eastern part of the Dominican Republic through Monday and toward the Turks and Caicos Islands on Tuesday. It is expected to grow stronger over the next few days and become a major hurricane — meaning a Category 3 or higher — by Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center said.
Pedro Pierluisi, the governor of Puerto Rico, said at a news conference on Sunday afternoon that the authorities were assessing damage and working to stave off a growing disaster. He said officials were rescuing people in isolated areas and deploying the National Guard and other personnel to evacuate low-lying areas where rivers were expected to flood.
“Hurricane Fiona has blanketed Puerto Rico,” Mr. Pierluisi said in Spanish, adding that the storm has been one of the most significant to hit since Hurricane Maria devastated it in 2017. “This has been a direct impact that has covered all of the island.”
The storm made landfall in the Dominican Republic, meaning the eye of the storm crossed the shoreline, at 3:30 a.m. Eastern on Monday near Boca de Yuma. At the time, its maximum sustained winds were estimated at 90 miles per hour.
The Dominican president, Luis Abinader, said during a Sunday night news conference that the electricity company and government agencies had personnel “at the ready” to respond to emergencies.
Hurricane watches and warnings were in effect across the region. A hurricane warning was in effect for Turks and Caicos and the eastern coast of the Dominican Republic, from Cabo Caucedo to Cabo Frances Viejo. The north coast, from Cabo Frances Viejo westward to Puerto Plata, was under a hurricane watch.
When asked what went wrong with the island’s power grid, Jaclyn Rothenberg, a spokeswoman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said on Sunday that the agency’s priority was meeting immediate needs, and a diagnosis of what had gone wrong would have to come later.
As a tropical storm, Fiona brought flooding to Guadeloupe, an archipelago southeast of Puerto Rico, and there was at least one storm-related death in the capital, a government official said on Saturday.
The storm could bring four to six inches of rain to the British and U.S. Virgin Islands and up to 10 inches on St. Croix, forecaster said.
If the storm continues on a north-northwest track, it could affect the Bahamas, the Hurricane Center said.
The Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June through November, had a relatively quiet start, with only three named storms before September. There were no named storms in the Atlantic during August, the first time that happened since 1997. But storm activity picked up in early September, with Danielle and Earl, which both eventually became hurricanes, forming within a day of each other.
The links between hurricanes and climate change have become clearer with each passing year. Data shows that hurricanes have become stronger worldwide during the past four decades. A warming planet can expect stronger hurricanes over time and a higher incidence of the most powerful storms — though the overall number of storms could drop, because factors like stronger wind shear could keep weaker storms from forming.
Hurricanes are also becoming wetter because of more water vapor in the warmer atmosphere; storms like Hurricane Harvey in 2017 produced far more rain than they would have without the human effects on the climate, scientists have suggested. Also, rising sea levels are contributing to higher storm surge — the most destructive element of tropical cyclones.
Johnny Diaz, Amanda Holpuch, Eduardo Medina, Christopher Mele, McKenna Oxenden, Vimal Patel, Víctor Manuel Ramos, April Rubin, Chris Stanford, Derrick Bryson Taylor and Daniel Victor contributed reporting.