Giving Compass' Take:
- Puerto Rico is still recovering from Hurricane Maria, while slow-moving Hurricane Fiona will disrupt an already fragile country.
- What will long-term support look like for Puerto Rico against multiple climate-related hurricanes?
- Read more about disaster relief and recovery.
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Hurricane Fiona slammed into Puerto Rico Sunday afternoon, causing widespread destruction, leaving 1.4 million residents without power and 700,000 without running water. The National Weather Service has warned that the Category 1 storm will cause “life-threatening and catastrophic flooding.” Indeed, the slow-moving hurricane had dropped more than 30 inches of rain on parts of Puerto Rico as of Monday, when it made landfall in the Dominican Republic. Only 100,000 Puerto Ricans have seen their power restored so far.
According to the Puerto Rican governor, Fiona dumped more rain on some parts of Puerto Rico than Hurricane Maria, which made landfall almost exactly five years ago and caused an estimated 4,645 deaths. As water levels rose in the Guaonica River, a temporary metal bridge, built after Hurricane Maria destroyed the previous one, floated away in the floodwaters. One man died during the power outage while trying to operate a generator, and Governor Pedro Pierluisi reported that the National Guard had rescued more than 1,000 stranded people.
Hurricane Fiona “catches the island at the very worst moment, right after an incomplete recovery from Hurricane Maria when the electric grid is very frail,” said Juan Declet-Barreto, a senior social scientist studying climate vulnerability at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit advocacy group. “It’s just a very, very difficult situation.”
Slow-moving hurricanes like Fiona are expected to become more common in a warming world. Climate researchers have found that once storms make landfall, they are now moving more slowly and taking longer to weaken compared to previous years, thereby increasing the amount of rainfall they’re likely to produce. While it’s too early to know the exact role that climate change played in Hurricane Fiona’s intensity, Declet-Barreto said that global warming is creating conditions that allow for the rapid intensification of hurricanes, lots of rain, and heavy winds.
Read the full article about hurricane Fiona by Naveena Sadasivam at Grist.