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At least four killed in Puerto Rico during Hurricane Fiona, FEMA says

Hurricane Fiona struck Puerto Rico on Sept. 18, only five years after Hurricane Maria heavily damaged the island archipelago. (Video: John Farrell, Julie Yoon, Juan C. Dávila/The Washington Post)

Five years after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, killing thousands and triggering one of the largest blackouts in U.S. history, the island is digging out after another devastating storm.

Even though the core of Hurricane Fiona has pulled well to the northwest of Puerto Rico and storm warnings have been discontinued, its circulation is forecast to drag rain bands over the island into Tuesday. Some areas could still add a few inches to current totals, bringing potentially more flooding and landslides.

Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Deanne Criswell traveled to Puerto Rico on Tuesday to meet with local officials and assess the damage.

Here’s what to know

  • Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi (D) said Tuesday that President Biden had agreed to issue a major disaster declaration for the territory to free additional federal funds for the response. The storm brought an average of 10 to 16 inches of rain across Puerto Rico, Pierluisi said. Four people on the island were killed, according to FEMA.
  • Luma Energy officials said power had been restored to more than 286,000 customers as of 6:30 a.m. Tuesday — a fifth of the 1.5 million total households that rely on the private energy consortium. It also said late Monday that Luma had restored power to Pavia Emergency Room (Carolina), Caribbean Hospital (Fajardo), Canovanas CDT and Cambalache Regional Hospital (Arecibo).
  • Fiona reached maximum sustained wind speeds of 115 mph, the National Hurricane Center said early Tuesday, making it this year’s first “major hurricane,” which is defined as a tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 111 mph or more.
  • The southeast part of Puerto Rico saw the most rainfall of the storm, with many areas getting at least 20 inches of rain and a few spots receiving more than 25 inches. In Ponce, the island’s second-largest city, Fiona dumped more than 32 inches.

The Atlantic hurricane season

The latest: The 2022 season started out slow, but has rapidly intensified this fall with conditions prime for storms. Fiona brought severe flooding to Puerto Rico before making landfall in Canada, and now we’re tracking Hurricane Ian as it heads for Florida. For the seventh year in a row, hurricane officials expect an above-average season of hurricane activity.

Tips for preparing: We rounded up seven safety tips to help you get ready for hurricanes. Here’s some other guidance about keeping your phone charged and useful in dangerous weather, and what to know about flood insurance.

Understanding climate change: It’s not just you — hurricanes and tropical storms have hit the U.S. more frequently in recent years. And last summer alone, nearly 1 in 3 Americans experienced a weather disaster. Read more about how climate change is fueling severe weather events.