Hurricane Fiona flooding devastates Puerto Rico: World in Photos

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World in Photos: In Puerto Rico, a low-strength storm brings large-scale misery

Sometimes a storm’s numerical description — Category 1, 2, etc. — isn’t the best way to forecast a storm’s power. There’s a simple reason for that: Projected wind strength determines the category, but sometimes it’s the rain, not the wind, that does the damage.

Case in point: the storm named Fiona, which landed Sunday as a Category 1 hurricane on Puerto Rico and which has battered the island with unrelenting rain and the floods that have followed. It’s a fresh nightmare that conjures memories of the historic damage done by Hurricane Maria five years ago — a storm which, as it happened, made landfall in Puerto Rico on this date in 2017.

Maria took 3,000 lives; Fiona looks to be more of a punishing blow in terms of damage than lives lost. More than 30 inches of rain have fallen over parts of the island; power has been knocked out for more than 1 million people (for some time Monday, the entire island had lost power); many woke up Monday to find waters rising to dangerous levels in their homes, and more than 1,000 people have had to be rescued from their homes.

This collection of photos give some sense of the devastation. A family waits by candlelight for help; a darkened street in Santurce; a flooded road in Villa Blanca; a man in a wheelchair looks out at his flooded neighborhood in Salinas; the scene outside Roberto Clemente Stadium; the battered neighborhood of Juana Matos, in Cataño; and a view from the mountains as the rains swept across the town of Cayey.


“I’ve never seen this in my life, not even in Maria,” Ada Belmot Plaza told the New York Times. She had been rescued by the Puerto Rico National Guard as floodwaters rose in the El Coquí neighborhood of Salinas.

It may be several days before residents have their power and drinking water restored, longer than that for aid and cleanup crews to arrive, and of course much longer still for the rebuilding that will be needed in many communities.

As for Fiona, it is headed across the Caribbean as we write, having reached Category 3 strength. In Puerto Rico, they might say, whatever the “category,” just hope you can avoid the rains.

A person sits by candlelight at home after Hurricane Fiona knocked out power in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
On a street at night in the Condado community of Santurce in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the street lights are out after the passage of Hurricane Fiona.
A person cooks in the dark after Hurricane Fiona knocked out the power in the Conadado community of Santurce in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
People leave their homes to wait out Hurricane Fiona at a shelter in Salinas, Puerto Rico.
People wait in a shelter after Hurricane Fiona passes through Salinas, Puerto Rico.
The streets of Villa Blanca, Puerto Rico are flooded and it is still raining after Hurricane Fiona slammed into the island.
Outside the Roberto Clemente Stadium in Salinas, Puerto Rico, the parking lot is flooded and looks like a lake after Hurricane Fiona.
The flooded street looks like a river in the Juana Matos neighborhood of Catano, Puerto Rico after Hurricane Fiona flooded the island.
A man in a wheelchair looks out over a flooded road in Salinas, Puerto Rico after Hurricane Fiona.
A man walks down a street flooded by Hurricane Fiona in the Juana Matos neighborhood of Catano, Puerto Rico.
A man and two children walk in a flooded street after the passage of Hurricane Fiona in Salinas, Puerto Rico.
Power lines knocked down by Hurricane Fiona block a white pickup truck in Cayey, Puerto Rico.
The town of Cayey, seen from a distance, as rain from Hurricane Fiona pours down on everything.
A woman stands outside her flooded house in Salinas after Hurricane Fiona smashed into Puerto Rico.
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