Biden Makes Emergency Declaration as Hurricane Fiona Strengthens

Biden Makes Emergency Declaration as Hurricane Fiona Strengthens
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on his Bipartisan Infrastructure Law at the new Boston Logan Terminal in Boston on Sept. 12, 2022. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)
Jack Phillips
President Joe Biden on Sunday approved Puerto Rico’s emergency declaration as Fiona strengthened into a hurricane.

"The President’s action authorizes FEMA to coordinate all disaster relief efforts to alleviate the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population and to provide appropriate assistance, to save lives, to protect property, public health and safety and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in all 78 municipalities in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico," said the declaration.

Hurricane Fiona, a Category 1 storm, strengthened to become a hurricane on Sunday morning, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

“Heavy rains from Fiona will continue across Puerto Rico through tonight and occur over the Dominican Republic later today into Monday,” NWS said in an update. “These rainfall amounts will produce life-threatening flash floods and urban flooding across Puerto Rico and portions of the eastern Dominican Republic, along with mudslides and landslides in areas of higher terrain.”

The agency said a storm surge of 3 feet will be brought by the storm to Puerto Rico's coast. More than 20 inches of rain is also expected to hit parts of the U.S. territory.

“Additional strengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours while Fiona moves near Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and over the southwestern Atlantic,” the U.S. hurricane center said. “Hurricane conditions are expected on Puerto Rico today, and are expected in portions of the eastern Dominican Republic tonight and Monday.”

The National Hurricane Center's forecast as of Sunday, Sept. 18, for Hurricane Fiona. (NHC)
The National Hurricane Center's forecast as of Sunday, Sept. 18, for Hurricane Fiona. (NHC)
After striking Puerto Rico and hitting the eastern portion of the Dominican Republic this week, Fiona is forecast to further strengthen—possibly into a major, Category 3 hurricane—by Wednesday. The storm is then forecast to track east of the Bahamas and toward Bermuda, the NHC said.

Officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) went to Puerto Rico to assist local officials.

“Thank you ⁦@POTUS⁩ for a swift approval of an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico,” wrote FEMA spokesperson Jaclyn Rothenberg on Twitter. “This will allow ⁦@fema⁩ to respond and support the island as they experience the extreme weather impacts of Tropical Storm #Fiona.”

Fiona, meanwhile, is the third named storm of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season, which researchers say has been exceptionally placid.

“It has been surprisingly and freakishly quiet in the Atlantic,” University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy told The Associated Press earlier this month. “For the first time since 1941, the Atlantic has had no named storm (e.g., tropical storm or hurricane) activity from July 3rd-August 30th,” wrote Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach on Twitter.

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