Tropical Storm Irene became the first hurricane in the 2011 Atlantic Season, moving over Puerto Rico and hitting the U.S. Caribbean territory with heavy winds and rain.
The storm left over a million Puerto Ricans without power and residents awoke Monday morning to flooded and debris-strewn streets. Hurricane Irene knocked down trees across the island and caused several rivers to overflow, according to The Associated Press.
There were no reported deaths or injuries, but Puerto Rico’s Governor Luis Fortuno declared a state of emergency and urged residents to stay inside to avoid fallen power lines and other hazards.
"This isn't the time to go out to find out what happened ... This is the time stay in your homes," Fortuno said at a news conference.
As of 7:00 a.m. Monday morning, the center of the storm was located just north of Puerto Rico’s coast, indicating that Hurricane Irene will continue to move away from the island.
According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC) this general motion will continue over the next couple of days.
"We're still receiving rain and some wind associated with the system but it should start to get better as the day goes on," said Jose Alamo, a U.S. National Weather Service meteorologist in San Juan, AP reported.
The NHC stated that winds and tropical storm conditions are expected to gradually decrease in the Virgin Islands, eastern Puerto Rico, and Culebra and Vieques. The hurricane warning for these areas has been replaced with a tropical storm warning.
Hurricane Irene is expected to approach the northern coast of the Dominican Republic this afternoon or early tonight.
The storm will sustain maximum winds of about 75 mph, the NHC predicted. Irene is a category one hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. It is expected to strengthen over the next 48 hours.
Hurricane Irene is predicted to produce about five to ten inches of rain across Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, southern Bahamas, and the Turks and Caicos Islands. NHC reported that there is the possibility of isolated rainfall of up to 20 inches.
A hurricane warning is in effect for the north coast of the Dominican Republic from Haiti’s eastern border to Cabo Engano.
As of 9:00 a.m. Hurricane Irene was about 75 miles east-northeast of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic and has maximum sustained winds of 80 mph.
The hurricane could hit Florida later in the week and Broward County emergency officials are already on the watch.
Chuck Lanza told AP that the staff would soon start calling about 1,000 elderly and disabled residents, listed on their special needs registry, to assess what kind of assistance they will need if Irene hits South Florida.