TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Hurricane Fiona made landfall in southwest Puerto Rico Sunday afternoon, shortly after being upgraded from a tropical storm to a Category 1 hurricane, the National Hurricane Center said.

Fiona hit about 15 miles (25 kilometers) south-southeast of Mayaguez with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph (140 kph) around 3:20 p.m. local time, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. It was moving to the northwest at 9 mph (15 kph).

The NHC said Fiona could bring “catastrophic flooding” and life-threatening mudslides to Puerto Rico.

“Parts of Puerto Rico could pick up over 12 inches of rain before skirting the east coast of the Dominican Republic Monday,” meteorologist Eric Stone said.

Forecasters said the downpour could bring up to 25 inches of rain in isolated areas.

(WFLA)

The storm knocked out power to more than half a million customers and several health institutions, including Puerto Rico’s largest public hospital, which was running on generators. Health Secretary Carlos Mellado said crews were working to repair generators as soon as possible at the Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“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.

Anxiety ran high across the island with Fiona due just two days before the anniversary of Hurricane Maria, a devastating Category 4 storm that hit on Sept. 20, 2017, destroying the island’s power grid and causing nearly 3,000 deaths.

More than 3,000 homes still have only a blue tarp as a roof, and infrastructure remains weak.

“I think all of us Puerto Ricans who lived through Maria have that post-traumatic stress of, ‘What is going to happen, how long is it going to last and what needs might we face?’” said Danny Hernández, who works in the capital of San Juan but planned to weather the storm with his parents and family in the western town of Mayaguez.

President Joe Biden declared an emergency crisis for the commonwealth, ordering federal assistance to be sent to help Puerto Rican authorities respond to the potential dangers.

A hurricane warning is in effect for:

  • Puerto Rico, including Vieques and Culebra
  • The coast of the Dominican Republic from Cabo Caucedo to Cabo Frances Viejo

A hurricane watch is in effect for:

  • North coast of the Dominican Republic from Cabo Frances Viejo westward to Puerto Plata

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for:

  • U.S. Virgin Islands
  • The British Virgin Islands
  • North coast of the Dominican Republic from Cabo Frances Viejo westward to Puerto Plata

A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for:

  • South coast of the Dominican Republic west of Cabo Caucedo to Barahona
  • Turks and Caicos Islands
  • Southeastern Bahamas, including the Acklins, Crooked Island, Long Cay, the Inaguas, Mayaguana, and the Ragged Islands

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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