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President Biden Approves Emergency Declaration For Puerto Rico

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced on Sept. 18 that federal emergency aid has been made available to Puerto Rico to supplement Puerto Rico’s response efforts due to emergency conditions resulting from Tropical Storm Fiona beginning Sept. 17 and continuing.

President Biden’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,” FEMA said in a news release.

Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency. Emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, will be provided at 75% federal funding.

Hurricane Fiona knocked out power on Puerto Rico on Sunday, Sept. 18, with the system packing strong winds and producing heavy rainfall.

The American Public Power Association is actively monitoring the situation.

Puerto Rico’s Governor Pedro Pierluisi said in a Facebook post that the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) and LUMA Energy reported that due to the effect of the hurricane, the electrical system was knocked out of service.

LUMA Energy reported on Sept. 19 that as part of its ongoing response and restoration efforts to Hurricane Fiona, it had restored power service to 100,000 customers within the municipalities of Toa Alta, Toa Baja, metropolitan area in San Juan, Bayamón and Coroza l.

In another Facebook post on Sept. 18, Pierluisi said that the National Weather Service (San Juan, Puerto Rico) had categorized Hurricane Fiona as a catastrophic event for flooding impacts across the Central Cordillera and eastern and southern Puerto Rico.

Nine to 13 inches of rain “has fallen in 5 hours and the system will remain in the area through Monday morning,” the post said. “In communication with municipalities and legislators, emergency situations have been identified and response teams have attended any incident where life is in imminent danger.”

LUMA Energy noted that when severe storms impact Puerto Rico, a LUMA Emergency Operations Center (LEOC) is activated to coordinate an emergency response.

From the LEOC, an Incident Command team monitors weather conditions, mobilizes and dispatches brigades, and manages operations and communications.

In a Sept. 18 tweet, Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said that the Department of Energy’s response organization had been activated, and responders are deployed to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. “We’re working with  @FEMA, local officials, and authorities to monitor #Fiona outages and will assist with restoration efforts as it becomes safe to do so,” she said in the tweet.

In June 2020, PREPA and the Puerto Rico Public-Private Partnership Authority selected LUMA Energy to operate, maintain and modernize the electricity transmission and distribution system of PREPA for fifteen years through a public-private partnership.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported on Sept. 18 that the eye of Fiona made landfall over extreme southwestern Puerto Rico around 3:20 p.m. Eastern time.