HAVANA (AP) — Hurricane Fiona struck Puerto Rico’s southwest coast on Sunday as it unleashed landslides, knocked the power grid out and ripped up asphalt from roads and flung the pieces around.
Forecasters said the storm would cause massive flooding and threatened to dump “historic” levels of rain, with up to 30 inches (76 centimeters) possible in eastern and southern Puerto Rico.
“The damages that we are seeing are catastrophic,” said Gov. Pedro Pierluisi.
“I urge people to stay in their homes,” said William Miranda Torres, mayor of the northern town of Caguas, where at least one large landslide was reported, with water rushing down a big slab of broken asphalt and into a gully.
The storm also 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.
Fiona was centered 10 miles (15 kilometers) west of Mayaguez with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph (140 kph), according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. It was moving to the northwest at 9 mph (15 kph).
Fiona struck on the anniversary of Hurricane Hugo, which hit Puerto Rico 33 years ago as a Category 3 storm.
The storm’s clouds covered the entire island and tropical storm-force winds extended as far as 140 miles (220 kilometers) from Fiona’s center.
U.S. President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency in the U.S. territory as the eye of the storm approached the island’s southwest corner.
Hurricane Fiona rips through powerless Puerto Rico