President Biden approved Puerto Rico’s emergency declaration on Sunday, just before Fiona strengthened into a hurricane as it approached the island.
The National Weather Service (NWS) issued hurricane warnings for Puerto Rico as heavy rains from the storm reach the island.
“Heavy rains from Fiona will continue across Puerto Rico through tonight and occur over the Dominican Republic later today into Monday,” NWS said in an advisory. “These rainfall amounts will produce life-threatening flash floods and urban flooding across Puerto Rico and portions of the eastern Dominican Republic, along with mudslides and landslides in areas of higher terrain.”
The agency predicted a storm surge of up to three feet along Puerto Rico’s coast and more than 20 inches of rain for some parts of the island.
Biden earlier on Sunday declared an emergency on the island, freeing up federal resources to support the local response to the hurricane.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials traveled to Puerto Rico to assist local officials.
“Thank you @POTUS for a swift approval of an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico,” tweeted FEMA spokesperson Jaclyn Rothenberg. “This will allow @fema to respond and support the island as they experience the extreme weather impacts of Tropical Storm #Fiona.”
The federal government will fund 75 percent of its emergency protective measures and direct assistance.
“At this time everyone must be in a safe place. No one should be outside,” tweeted Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico’s governor.
San Juan’s airport canceled all flights on Sunday as the storm began pummeling the island.
“It’s time to take action and be concerned,” said Nino Correa, Puerto Rico’s emergency management commissioner.