Tropical Storm Fiona was expected to become a hurricane as it neared Puerto Rico on Saturday, threatening to dump up to 20 inches of rain in parts of the U.S. territory. Forecasters issued a hurricane warning for the island as people braced for potential landslides, severe flooding and power outages from the storm, which was located about 90 miles southeast of St. Croix on Saturday morning with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph.
The storm previously battered various eastern Caribbean islands, with one death reported in the French territory of Guadeloupe. Regional prefect Alexandre Rochatte told reporters Saturday that the body was found on the side of a road after floods washed away a home in the capital of Basse-Terre. More than 20 other people were rescued amid heavy wind and rain that left 13,000 customers without power.
Fiona had maximum sustained winds of 60 mph (95 kph). It was moving west at 8 mph (13 kph) on a path forecast to pass near or over Puerto Rico on Sunday night. Fiona was expected to become a hurricane while moving near Puerto Rico.
“We are already starting to feel its effects,” said Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi. “We should not underestimate this storm.”
He said the heavy rains anticipated are dangerous because the island’s soil is already saturated. Meanwhile, many Puerto Ricans worried about serious power outages since the reconstruction of the island’s power grid razed by Hurricane Maria in 2017 only recently began. The grid remains fragile and power outages occur daily, with some 80,000 customers already in the dark on Saturday.
Fiona is expected to swipe past the Dominican Republic on Monday. The storm previously battered various eastern Caribbean islands, with one death reported in the French territory of Guadeloupe.
Forecasters issued a hurricane watch for the southern coast of the Dominican Republic from Cabo Engaño westward to Cabo Caucedo and for the northern coast from Cabo Engaño westward to Puerto Plata. The U.S. Virgin Islands are also under a hurricane watch.
A tropical storm warning is in effect for several other islands, including the British Virgin Islands, St. Maarten, Guadeloupe, St. Barthelemy and St. Martin, the hurricane center said.
In Puerto Rico, authorities opened shelters and closed public beaches, theaters and museums as they urged people to remain indoors.
“It’s time to activate your emergency plan and contact and help your relatives, especially elderly adults who live alone,” said Dr. Gloria Amador, who runs a nonprofit health organization in central Puerto Rico.
At least one cruise ship visit and several flights to the island were canceled while authorities in the eastern Caribbean islands canceled school and prohibited people from practicing aquatic sports as Fiona battered the region.
In Guadeloupe, authorities said they recorded wind gusts of up to 74 mph, which would be considered a Category 1 hurricane. They also said 9 inches of rain fell in three hours in the Gros Morne area.
Fiona, which is the Atlantic hurricane season’s sixth named storm, was predicted to bring 5 to 10 inches of rain in eastern and southern Puerto Rico, with as much as 16 inches in isolated spots. Rains of 4 to 8 inches were forecast for the Dominican Republic, with up to 12 inches in places. Life-threatening surf also was possible from Fiona’s winds, forecasters said.
Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Lester in the eastern Pacific was on a projected path that could bring landfall near the Acapulco area on Mexico’s southwestern coast Saturday night.
Lester was expected to remain a tropical storm until hitting the Mexican coast. Forecasters warned of potential dangers from heavy rains.
The storm had maximum sustained winds of 40 mph Saturday morning. It was centered about 85 miles southeast of Acapulco and moving to the northwest at 10 mph.
A tropical storm warning was up from Puerto Escondido to Zihuatanejo. The hurricane center said Lester could drop from 3 to 6 inches of rain in western Oaxaca state, Guerrero state, Michoacan state, Colima state and Jalisco state, with isolated areas getting a foot.