Hurricane Fiona hit the Dominican Republic on Monday, a day after knocking out power to all of Puerto Rico and causing damage the governor described as "catastrophic." Many people were also left without water service.
Fiona's blow was made more devastating because Puerto Rico has yet to recover from the hurricane maria , which killed nearly 3,000 people and destroyed the power grid in 2017. Five years later, more than 3,000 homes on the island still have blue tarps as roofs. .
Fiona's wind and water ripped pavement from roads, ripped off roofs, and sent torrents into homes. The storm also brought down a bridge and flooded two airports.
Authorities did not directly report deaths from the hurricane, but Puerto Rico officials said it was too early to know the full extent of the damage. The storm was still expected to unleash torrential rain on the US territory that is home to 3.2 million people.
One death was associated with the outage: a 70-year-old man who burned to death after trying to fill his generator with gasoline while it was running, authorities said.
Governor Pedro Pierluisi declined to say how long it would take to fully restore power, but said for most customers it would be "a matter of days."
Since the beginning of the storm, National Guard troops have rescued more than 900 people, Gen. José Reyes said at a press conference.
Meanwhile, in the Dominican Republic, the government emergency center reported downed trees and power poles. Nearly 800 people were evacuated to safer places and more than 500 were in shelters, officials said.
The National Weather Service office in Puerto Rico said flash flooding was occurring in the south-central parts of the island, tweeting: "MOVE TO HIGHER GROUND IMMEDIATELY!"
Up to 22 inches (56 centimeters) of rain fell in some areas of Puerto Rico and forecasters said 4 to 8 inches more could fall as the storm moves away, with even more chance in some places.
Rain totals of up to 15 inches (38 centimeters) were projected for the eastern Dominican Republic, where authorities closed ports and beaches and told most people to stay home from work.
“It is important that people understand that this is not over,” said Ernesto Morales, a meteorologist with the weather service in San Juan.
He said the flooding reached "historic levels," with authorities evacuating or rescuing hundreds of people across Puerto Rico.
“The damage we are seeing is catastrophic,” Pierluisi said.
Water service was cut off to more than 837,000 customers, two-thirds of the total on the island, due to cloudy water at filtration plants or a lack of power, officials said.
Before dawn Monday, authorities in a boat navigated the flooded streets of the north coast town of Catano, using a megaphone to alert people that the bombs had collapsed, urging them to evacuate as soon as possible.
Authorities said at least 1,300 people stayed overnight in shelters across the island.
The brown water spilled onto streets and homes and closed airports in Ponce and Mayagüez.
The system also ripped asphalt from roads and swept away a bridge in the central mountain town of Utuado that police say was installed by the National Guard after Maria hit as a Category 4 storm.
Fiona also ripped roofs off houses, including Nelson Cirino's in the northern coastal city of Loiza.
“I was sleeping and I saw the corrugated metal fly away,” she said as she watched the rain soak her belongings and the wind toss her colorful curtains into the air.
By early afternoon, Fiona had moved into the open Atlantic, where it was expected to strengthen, according to the National Hurricane Center.
As of 2 p.m. Monday, its center was about 165 miles (270 kilometers) southeast of Grand Turk Island and it was moving northwest at 9 mph (15 kph), with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph (150 kph).
Tropical-storm-force winds extended 140 miles (220 kilometers) from the center.
United States President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency as the eye of the storm approached the southwestern corner of the island.
Health centers in Puerto Rico were running on generators and some failed. Health Secretary Carlos Mellado said crews scrambled to repair generators at the Comprehensive Cancer Center, where several patients had to be evacuated.
Fiona previously hit the eastern Caribbean, killing a man in the French territory of Guadeloupe when floodwaters swept away his home, authorities said.
The system hit Puerto Rico on the anniversary of Hurricane Hugo, which hit the island in 1989 as a Category 3 storm.