SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Tropical Storm Isaias battered Puerto Rico on Thursday as it continued on a track toward the U.S. mainland, unleashing small landslides and causing widespread flooding and power outages on an island still recovering from previous hurricanes and ongoing earthquakes.
Especially hard hit by the storm’s maximum sustained winds of 60 mph (96 kph) was Puerto Rico’s southern region, which is still being shaken by daily tremors. Santos Seda, mayor of the southwest town of Guánica, told The Associated Press that he has received reports of downed trees and inundated neighborhoods where earthquake-damaged homes still stand.
“The emotional state of people is deteriorating more every day,” he said, adding that crews will fan out to assess damage once the weather clears.
Isaias was located about 100 miles (160 kilometers) west-southwest of Ponce, Puerto Rico, and about 160 miles (257 kilometers) southeast of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. It was moving west-northwest at 21 mph (33 kph), and the center was expected to move over Hispaniola later on Thursday and near the southeastern Bahamas by early Friday.
Minor damage was reported elsewhere in Puerto Rico, where tens of thousands of people still use tarps as roofs since Hurricane Maria hit as a powerful Category 4 storm in September 2017.
José Pagán, a 22-year-old who lives in the eastern mountain town of Juncos, said his power went out before dawn.
“I didn’t think it was going to be this strong,” he said of the storm, adding that his home is slightly flooded. “It’s a rather difficult experience because it reminds us of Maria.”
The hurricane center said Isaias, for now, is not expected to become a hurricane before reaching the U.S. mainland.
“Isaias is sending some mixed signals,” the forecast discussion stated. “Model forecasts are showing a complex evolution of the tropical cyclone during the next day or two.”
Tropical storm warnings were issued for Puerto Rico, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, the Turks and Caicos Islands and portions of the Dominican Republic, Haiti and the Bahamas.
Isaias is expected to produce 3 to 6 inches (7 to 17 centimeters) of rain across the British and U.S.
Virgin Islands and Turks and Caicos and also across Puerto Rico, northern Haiti, and eastern Cuba with isolated maximum totals of 8 inches (20 centimeters).
The Dominican Republic and the Bahamas could see 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters) of rain while Cuba could see 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 centimeters), with isolated maximum totals of 6 inches (15 centimeters).
Isaias broke the record as the earliest ninth Atlantic named storm, according to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach. The previous record was Irene on August 7, 2005, Klotzbach tweeted.
So far this year, Cristobal, Danielle, Edouard, Fay, Gert and Hanna have also set records for being the earliest named Atlantic storm for their alphabetic order.