Puerto Rico Under Hurricane Watch as Tropical Storm Fiona Approaches

Tropical Storm Fiona threatened to dump up to 41 centimeters (16 inches) of rain in parts of Puerto Rico on Saturday, as forecasters placed the U.S. territory under a hurricane watch and people braced for potential landslides, severe flooding and power outages.

The storm was located 215 kilometers (135 miles) southeast of St. Croix Saturday morning with maximum sustained winds of 95 kph. It was moving west at 20 kph on a path forecast to pass near Puerto Rico. Forecasters warned Fiona could be near hurricane strength when it passes through Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

Fiona is expected to swipe 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.

Forecasters issued a hurricane watch for the southern coast of the Dominican Republic from Cabo Engaño westward to Cabo Caucedo and for the northern coast from Cabo Engano westward to Puerto Plata.

In Puerto Rico, authorities opened shelters and closed public beaches, theaters and museums as they urged people to remain indoors.

“It’s time to activate your emergency plan and contact and help your relatives, especially elderly adults who live alone,” said Dr. Gloria Amador, who runs a nonprofit health organization in central Puerto Rico.

At least one cruise ship visit and several flights to the island were canceled, while authorities in the eastern Caribbean islands canceled school and prohibited people from practicing aquatic sports as Fiona battered the region.

In the French Caribbean Island of Guadeloupe, authorities said they recorded wind gusts of up to 120 kph, which would be considered a Category 1 hurricane. They also said 23 centimeters of rain fell in three hours in the Gros Morne area.

Fiona, which is the Atlantic hurricane season’s sixth named storm, was predicted to bring 13 to 25 centimeters of rain in eastern and southern Puerto Rico, with as much as 16 inches (41 centimeters) in isolated spots. Rains of 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters) were forecast for the Dominican Republic, with up to 12 inches (30 centimeters) in places. Life-threatening surf also was possible from Fiona’s winds, forecasters said.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Lester in the eastern Pacific was on a projected path that could bring landfall near the Acapulco area on Mexico’s southwestern coast Saturday night.

Lester was expected to remain a tropical storm until hitting the Mexican coast. Forecasters warned of potential dangers from heavy rains.

The storm had maximum sustained winds of 75 kph late Friday. It was centered 180 kilometers southeast of Acapulco and moving northwest at 17 kph.

A tropical storm warning was up from Puerto Escondido to Zihuatanejo. The hurricane center said Lester could drop 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 centimeters.

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