Power outages, flooding hits Puerto Rico, USVI amid storms
HUMACAO, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands were hit by power outages and widespread flooding Monday as remnants of the Atlantic season’s first hurricane provided an initial test of how far they have recovered from last year’s devastating storms.
More than 47,000 customers in Puerto Rico lost electricity at the peak of the bad weather, but that number had dropped to 13,000 late in the afternoon as crews rushed to restore power. Some 8,600 customers were left without water.
Puerto Rico’s east coast was the most affected even as people in that region struggle to recover from Hurricane Maria.
“We’re still not ready to receive another storm,” said 17-year-old Ruben Del Moral, who lives in the southeast coastal town of Yabucoa, the first town hit by Hurricane Maria last September.
The Category 5 hurricane caused damages estimated at more than $100 billion, killed dozens of people by the most conservative estimates and destroyed up to 75 percent of Puerto Rico’s electricity transmission lines.
Some 60,000 people in the U.S. territory still have only tarps for roofs blown off by Maria, and more than 1,500 customers are still without power more than nine months after the storm.
Power outages also were reported Monday on the U.S. Virgin Island of St. Croix, where officials ordered schools and government offices closed.
Jose Alamo, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, told The Associated Press that 1 to 5 inches (3 to 13 centimeters) of rain fell across Puerto Rico. The island experienced sustained winds of 25 to 35 mph (40 to 56 kph). Several landslides were reported.
“It was a rather active day,” he said.
Memories of Hurricane Maria haunted many along Puerto Rico’s southeast coast, where La Favorita grocery store in Humacao had been swamped in five feet of saltwater, mud and seaweed.
Jaime Ruiz, a 54-year-old corrections officer who lives nearby, said Monday’s storm was disrupting efforts to rebuild his home that was heavily damaged by Maria.
He said he was surprised that Hurricane Beryl formed so early in the season, even if it did lose strength en route to the Caribbean.
“You worry, because you think about everything you’ve lost,” he said.
Beryl had been the Atlantic season’s first hurricane, but it weakened to a tropical storm as it approached the eastern Caribbean. It degenerated into a rainstorm Sunday shortly before it crossed over Dominica, another island was battered by Hurricane Maria, which killed dozens of people.
Marshall Alexander, with Dominica’s Meteorological Service, told the AP that no landslides or widespread flooding were reported.
“Definitely, we were spared the worst,” he said.
To the north, Tropical Storm Chris was squatting Monday about 215 miles (350 kilometers) off the coast of the Carolinas. Forecasters expected it to gain hurricane strength before moving up Gulf Stream waters on a path that could cause life-threatening surf along East Coast beaches this week.
Chris had top winds of 70 mph (110 kph) Monday evening and was expected to remain nearly stationary through Tuesday before moving northeastward as a hurricane. It was far enough out to sea that no coastal watches or warnings were in effect, even for the closest point of land, Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.
Danica Coto on Twitter: www.twitter.com/danicacoto