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Puerto Rico completely without power from Hurricane Fiona

Government officials say restoring electricty to the island could take “several days.”

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — 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 25 inches possible in isolated areas.

“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.

Fiona was centered 10 miles west of Mayaguez with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. It was moving to the northwest at 9 mph.

Track reported power outages in Puerto Rico

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.

“As a result of the bad weather, including the 80 mph winds of Hurricane Fiona, the electrical system has suffered several interruptions in the transmission lines, which contributed to a blackout through the island,’ LUMA Energy said in a statement.

“Due to the magnitude and extent of the blackout, as well as the effects of Hurricane Fiona, the total restoration of electricity service could take several days.”

The storm’s clouds covered the entire island and tropical-storm-force winds extended as far as 140 miles from Fiona’s center.

RELATED: Tropical Storm ‘Fiona’ to bring 10-15 inches of rain to parts of Puerto Rico & Virgin Islands

Fiona knocked out power to more than 720,000 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.

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.

RELATED: Puerto Rico loses power as Hurricane Fiona approaches

The storm was forecast to pummel cities and towns along Puerto Rico’s southern coast that have not yet fully recovered from a string of strong earthquakes that hit the region starting in late 2019.

Puerto Rico’s power grid was razed by Hurricane Maria and remains frail, with reconstruction starting only recently. Outages are a daily occurrence.

“What we’ve done is prepared ourselves to depend as little as possible on the central government,” he said.

Puerto Rico’s governor, Pedro Pierluisi, said he was ready to declare a state of emergency if needed and activated the National Guard as the Atlantic hurricane season’s sixth named storm approached.

“What worries me most is the rain,” said forecaster Ernesto Morales with the National Weather Service in San Juan.

Fiona was predicted to drop 12 to 16 inches of rain over eastern and southern Puerto Rico, with as much as 25 inches in isolated spots. Morales noted that Hurricane Maria in 2017 had unleashed 40 inches.

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