Puerto Rico under hurricane watch as TS Fiona approaches
HAVANA (AP) — Tropical Storm Fiona threatened to dump up to 16 inches (41 centimeters) of rain in parts of Puerto Rico on Saturday as forecasters placed the U.S. territory under a hurricane watch and people braced for potential landslides, severe flooding and power outages.
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 was located 145 miles (230 kilometers) southeast of St. Croix Saturday morning with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph (95 kph). It was moving west at 13 mph (20 kph) on a path forecast to pass near Puerto Rico. Forecasters warned Fiona could be near hurricane strength when it passes through Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
Fiona is expected to swipe past the Dominican Republic on Sunday as a potential hurricane and Haiti and the Turks and Caicos Islands on Monday and Tuesday with the threat of extreme rain.
Forecaster 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.
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 the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, authorities said they recorded wind gusts of up to 74 mph (120 kph), which would be considered a Category 1 hurricane. They also said 9 inches (23 centimeters) 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 (13 to 25 centimeters) of rain in eastern and southern Puerto Rico, with as much as 16 inches (41 centimeters) in isolated spots. Rains of 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters) were forecast for the Dominican Republic, with up to 12 inches (30 centimeters) 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 45 mph (75 kph) late Friday. It was centered 110 miles (180 kilometers) southeast of Acapulco and moving moving northwest at 10 mph (17 kph).
A tropical storm warning was up from Puerto Escondido to Zihuatanejo. The hurricane center said Lester could drop from 3 to 6 inches (8 to 15 centimeters) of rain on the coasts of upper Guerrero state and Michoacan state, with isolated areas getting 12 inches (30 centimeters).