HAVANA (AP) — Tropical Storm Fiona threatened to dump up to 16 inches (41 centimeters) of rain in parts of Puerto Rico on Saturday, as forecasters placed the U.S. territory under hurricane watch and people braced for possible landslides, severe flooding and power outages.
The storm was located 145 miles (230 kilometers) southeast of St. Croix Saturday morning with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph (95 kph). It was moving west at 20 km/h on a path expected to pass near Puerto Rico. Forecasters warned that Fiona could be near hurricane strength as it passes through Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
Fiona is expected to sweep past the Dominican Republic on Sunday as a potential hurricane and Haiti and the Turks and Caicos Islands on Monday and Tuesday with the threat of extreme rain.
Forecaster issued a hurricane watch for the south coast of the Dominican Republic from Cabo Engaño west to Cabo Caucedo and for the north coast from Cabo Engaño west to Puerto Plata.
In Puerto Rico, authorities opened shelters and closed public beaches, theaters and museums while urging people to stay indoors.
“It’s time to activate your emergency plan and contact and help your family members, especially older adults who live alone,” said Dr. Gloria Amador, who runs a nonprofit health organization in downtown Puerto Rico.
At least one cruise ship visit and several flights to the island were canceled while authorities in the eastern Caribbean islands canceled the school and banned people from practicing water sports as Fiona ravaged the region.
On the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, authorities said they recorded wind gusts of up to 120 km/h, which would be considered a Category 1 hurricane. They also said 23 inches of rain fell in the Gros Morne area in three hours.
Fiona, the sixth storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, was expected to bring 13 to 25 inches of rain in eastern and southern Puerto Rico, with as much as 16 inches (41 centimeters) in isolated spots. Rain of 10 to 20 centimeters was forecast for the Dominican Republic, with up to 30 centimeters in places. Life-threatening surf was also possible from Fiona’s winds, forecasters said.
Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Lester in the eastern Pacific Ocean was on a projected path that could make landfall Saturday evening near the Acapulco area on Mexico’s southwest coast.
Lester was expected to remain a tropical storm until it hit the Mexican coast. Forecasters warned of potential dangers of heavy rain.
The storm had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph (75 kph) late Friday. It was centered 110 miles (180 kilometers) southeast of Acapulco and was moving northwest at 10 mph (17 kph).
There was a tropical storm warning from Puerto Escondido to Zihuatanejo. The Hurricane Center said Lester could receive from 3 to 6 inches (8 to 15 centimeters) of rain on the coasts of upper Guerrero state and Michoacan state, with isolated areas getting 30 inches.