September 20, 2022 - Hurricane Fiona Batters the Caribbean


After a slow start to the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season, powerful Hurricane Fiona has brought destruction across the Caribbean, with three landfalls in three days. Fiona first crossed Guadeloupe as a tropical storm on September 16, then lashed Puerto Rico on September 18 as a Category 1 hurricane, almost five years to the day after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. The third—and hopefully the last—landfall was made over the Dominican Republic on September 19.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on board NASA’s Terra satellite acquired this true-color image of Hurricane Fiona on September 18 shortly before landfall over Puerto Rico. It was the third Atlantic hurricane of the 2022 season.

Fiona came ashore in southwestern Puerto Rico around 3:20 p.m. EDT (1920 UTC) on September 18. The storm’s maximum sustained winds reached 85 mph (135km/h) prior to landfall, placing it in Category 1 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Although the wind speed was not catastrophic by itself, Hurricane Fiona moved very slowly, giving the storm time to drop torrential rains and for the winds to consistently batter the island. The hurricane dropped 1 to 2 feet (300 to 600 millimeters) of rain in numerous locations, and the persistent winds took down trees, electric power lines, and roofs. Heavy rain fell on some mountainous areas, causing at least ten rivers to swell to flood stage, creating catastrophic and widespread flooding.

By midday on September 19, roughly 90 percent of customers on the island were without electricity. Another 25 percent lacked access to running water, according to news reports. Government agencies have rescued at over 1,000 people from the floods and Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi was reported to have confirmed at least three people had died in that state as a result of the hurricane. Prior to striking Puerto Rico, Fiona was responsible for at least one death in Guadeloupe, when it made landfall over that island at tropical storm strength on September 16.

While Fiona’s trailing winds continued to pour rain on Puerto Rico, the hurricane strengthened before making landfall near Boca de Yuma, Dominican Republic at 3:30 a.m. EDT (0730 UTC) on September 19. At that time, maximum sustained winds were clocked at 90 mph (150 mph), making it a strong Category 1 hurricane. Early reports state that parts of eastern Dominican Republic has suffered severe flooding, with 800 people sheltering away from their homes and more than 11,000 without power.

After leaving the Dominican Republic, Fiona began to rapidly strengthen. At 5:00 p.m. EDT (2100 UTC) on September 19, the National Hurricane Center advised that maximum sustained winds had reached 100 mph (161 km/h), making it a Category 2 hurricane. By the 11:00 p.m. EDT September 19 (0300 UTC September 20) advisory, maximum sustained winds had leapt to 110 mph (177 km/h).

Forecasters are expecting the storm to brush close by the Turks & Caicos Islands and bring tropical-storm-force-winds to the Bahamas before turning north-northeast on September 20. Fiona is expected to rapidly strengthen, likely to Category 4, strength late on September 20 as it moves away from land.

Image Facts
Satellite: Terra
Date Acquired: 9/18/2022
Resolutions: 1km (529.3 KB), 500m (4.9 MB), 250m (4.9 MB)
Bands Used: 1,4,3
Image Credit: MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC