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Puerto Rico Faces Record Flooding From Maria

by Daphne Thompson, on Sep 20, 2017 2:00:43 PM

As the eyewall of Hurricane Maria moves off the coast of Puerto Rico, they are being left with record-setting flooding. While most have concentrated on the damage to be caused by Cat 4 or 5 winds, the water is proving just as dangerous.

Maria Exiting Puerto Rico - Sept. 20, 2017

Inland flooding is a top killer in hurricanes because many do not prepare for it. We saw this in full color as Houston flooded due to Hurricane Harvey. Now, Puerto Rico is facing similar issues on top of the tropical storm to hurricane force winds. Currently, 17 out of 27 National Weather Service gauges are in flood stage with nine in major flood stage. 

Viewing the gauges, you can see the river levels rise dramatically. On the left, the Rio Grande De Manati near Ciales goes from 2 feet in depth to over 42 feet, more than 17 feet above the record, in less than six hours. You can see a similar startling rise in the graph of the Rio Culebrinas, which is continuing its approach to record levels.

NWS River Gauges - Sept. 20, 2017

Images coming from our US territory show the power of this water as is engulfs homes and businesses in the area. Along with this flooding, you can expect landslides, erosion, and, combined with the wind, additional damage. 

All of Puerto Rico is now without power and it is expected to take weeks for it to be restored in some areas. Infrastructure across the island has sustained damage.

Maria is currently a Cat 3 hurricane. Major hurricane force wind gusts have been measured across Puerto Rico, despite several observing stations failing within the hardest hit areas. Sea surface temperatures and atmospheric conditions appear conducive for modest restrengthening once the center of Maria moves off land.

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