UTUADO, Puerto Rico – Residents and first responders could only watch helplessly as floodwaters overtook the town’s bridge and washed it downstream. Hurricane Fiona whipped the area with 85 mph winds gusting into the 100s and rainfall between 2 and almost 6 inches of rain, according to the National Weather Service.
Puerto Rico is expected to receive several inches of rain through Tuesday, raising concerns about flooding and mudslides. Southern Puerto Rico could see 12-18 inches of rain, with some areas receiving as much as 30 inches of rain.
“These rainfall amounts will produce catastrophic, life-threatening flash floods and urban flooding,” tweeted the NHC.
Watch the video above as the river rises over the roadway and pulls on the bridge. Then listen to the protesting groans of the metal trying desperately to grip the foundation before being torn free by the force.
Almost in slow motion, the bridge is overcome by the rushing waters and heads downstream. The power pulls at the guardrail which lets go of the ground supports one by one. As it follows the bridge, the metal takes out street signs. The rail hits the power pole which shudders in response but stays standing.
At the end of the video, it is difficult to tell if the sound from the astonished onlookers is laughing or crying.
Bridge was a replacement for one destroyed by Hurricane Maria
They are no strangers to this scene though. Hurricane Maria’s floodwaters in 2017 destroyed the original bridge and cut off the mountainous area from civilization, according to a tweet from Congressman Roberto Lefranc Fortuno of Puerto Rico.
He wrote: “Temporary Bridge in Utuado, PR-123 has collapsed. This bridge was installed after Hurricane Maria in 2017.”
Regional authorities didn’t reach Utuado for 10 days and federal aid took 42 days to arrive, according to PreventionWeb.net, an agency managed by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.
Maria struck on September 20th and the photo above shows the U.S. Department of Homeland Security delivering food and water to the isolated neighborhoods in mid-October.