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Hurricane Fiona hits Dominican Republic after causing "catastrophic" damage, "historic" flooding in Puerto Rico

Hurricane Fiona hits Dominican after "historic" flooding in Puerto Rico
Hurricane Fiona hits Dominican after "historic" flooding in Puerto Rico 01:35

Hurricane Fiona made landfall over the Dominican Republic early Monday after knocking out the power grid and unleashing floods and landslides in Puerto Rico, whose governor called the damage "catastrophic."

The hurricane center said Fiona reached the Dominican Republic near Boca de Yuma at 3:30 a.m. EDT, with sustained winds of 90 mph:

As of 5 a.m. EDT, Fiona was some 15 miles west-southwest of Punta Cana and moving northwest at 8 mph.

The center said Fiona is expected to "emerge over the southwestern Atlantic" Monday afternoon and pass "near or to the east of the Turks and Caicos" Tuesday, getting stronger all the while and becoming a major hurricane on Wednesday.

No deaths have been reported, but authorities in the U.S. territory said it was too early to estimate the damage from a storm that was still forecast to unleash torrential rain and cause more flooding across the island on Monday. Up to 30 inches was forecast for Puerto Rico's eastern and southern regions.

"It's important people understand that this is not over," said Ernesto Morales, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in San Juan.

He said flooding has reached "historic levels," with authorities evacuating or rescuing hundreds of people across the island.

"The damages that we are seeing are catastrophic," said Gov. Pedro Pierluisi.

Puerto Rico Tropical Weather
A road is blocked by a mudslide caused by Hurricane Fiona in Cayey, Puerto Rico, on Sept. 18, 2022. Stephanie Rojas / AP

Brown water rushed through streets, into homes and even consumed a runway airport in southern Puerto Rico.

Fiona ripped up asphalt from roads and washed away a bridge in the central mountain town of Utuado that police say was installed by the National Guard after Hurricane Maria hit in 2017 as a Category 4 storm.

The storm also ripped off the roofs of several homes, including that of Nelson Cirino in the northern coastal town of Loiza.

"I was sleeping and saw when the corrugated metal flew off," he said as he observed how the rain drenched his belongings.

Hurricane Fiona landfalls in Puerto Rico
People clear a road from a fallen tree after Hurricane Fiona affected the area in Yauco, Puerto Rico ON September 18, 2022. RICARDO ARDUENGO / REUTERS

Deanne Criswell, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said in a statement to CBS News Sunday night that the agency was "actively supporting" Puerto Rico and "immediately deployed hundreds of FEMA personnel before the storm made landfall."

"Our focus right now is on life-saving efforts and response to immediate needs such as power restoration," Criswell said. 

It hit on the anniversary of Hurricane Hugo, which slammed into the island in 1989 as a Category 3 storm.

Hurricane Fiona landfalls in Puerto Rico
A gas station sign damaged by Hurricane Fiona lies on the ground in Yauco, Puerto Rico September 18, 2022. RICARDO ARDUENGO / REUTERS

As authorities continue to assess the damage from Fiona, many wondered when power would be restored.

"That's probably the worst damage there is," said Tomás Rivera, who co-owns a hotel in the southwest coastal town of El Combate.

President Biden declared a state of emergency in the U.S. territory as the eye of the storm approached.

The blackout caused Maria was blamed for the deaths of nearly 3,000 people in the storm's sweltering aftermath. Power in some neighborhoods wasn't restored until a year later.

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