Floods Ravage Puerto Rico, Island Faces Months Without Power

Millions of people in Puerto Rico face what could be half a year without electricity after Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. territory, officials said.

And although the monster storm moved on, the danger remained on Thursday. Intense flooding was reported, particularly in San Juan, where many residential streets looked like rivers.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for the entire island shortly after 12:30 a.m. ET Thursday. Residents were urged to move to higher ground if possible.

Image: A man wades through a flooded road in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Image: A man wades through a flooded road in Fajardo, Puerto Rico,

A man wades through a flooded road in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, on Wednesday. Ricardo Ardengo / AFP – Getty Images

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz said the devastation in the capital was unlike any she had ever seen.

“The San Juan that we knew yesterday is no longer there,” Cruz told MSNBC. “We’re looking at 4 to 6 months without electricity” in Puerto Rico, which is home to nearly 3.5 million people.

Yennifer Álvarez Jaimes, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s press secretary, said all power across the economically strained island had been knocked out.

On Thursday, residents woke up to scenes of havoc left in the aftermath of the strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in nearly 90 years.

PHOTOS: Hurricane Maria Lashes Puerto Rico, Storm-Battered Caribbean

Uprooted trees and widespread flooding blocked many highways and streets across the island, creating a maze that forced drivers to go against traffic.

San Juan resident Heidi Roque, 21, told NBC News her home was left with shattered windows, damaged fences and broken doors.

She was worried about her grandmother, who lives alone in the town of Trujillo Alto, because she has no power or water. Roque’s family hasn’t from her since early Wednesday.

“I fear Puerto Rico won’t be the same when this is over. Not after this storm,” Roque said choking back tears. “This is the first time our family was faced with something so monstrous, we didn’t know how to react,” Roque said.

Outside an apartment building in San Juan, 40-year-old tourism company operator Adrian Pacheco recounted how he spent eight hours in a stairwell huddled with 100 other residents when the hurricane ripped the storm shutters off his building.

“Months and months and months and months are going to pass before we can recover from this,” Felix Delgado, mayor of the northern coastal city of Catano, told The Associated Press.

President Donald Trump has approved a federal disaster declaration for Puerto Rico, the White House announced.

Hurricane Irma sideswiped Puerto Rico on Sept. 6, leaving more than 1 million people without power but causing no deaths or widespread damage like it did on nearby islands.

Maria, however, blew out windows at some hospitals and police stations, turned some streets into roaring rivers and destroyed hundreds of homes across the island. A storm surge of more than 4 feet was also reported.

Image: Downed trees cover a street in San Juan, Puerto Rico Image: Downed trees cover a street in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Downed trees cover a street in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Wednesday. Hector Retamal / AFP – Getty Images

Puerto Rico’s electric grid was crumbling amid lack of maintenance and a dwindling staff even before Maria and Irma hit the island. The territory’s infrastructure has gone neglected for years, and its power company defaulted on a debt-restructuring deal in July.

Rosselló imposed a 6 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew, citing flood warnings and the importance of keeping streets clear for repair and rescue teams.

Airports in San Juan, Aguadilla and Ponce were ordered closed until Friday at the earliest because of flooding and debris, authorities said.

Maria, the strongest storm to hit Puerto Rico since 1928, had maximum sustained winds of 155 mph when it made landfall as a Category 4 storm near the town of Yabucoa just after 6 a.m. ET on Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center said.

The storm weakened as it battered Puerto Rico, but strengthened to a Category 3 hurricane early Thursday.

At 5 a.m. ET, it was moving past northeastern Dominican Republic on its way to the Turks and Caicos.

With maximum sustained winds of near 115 mph, Maria was expected to move near the British overseas territory and the southeastern Bahamas Thursday night and into Friday.

The center warned that Maria could regain some strength in the next day or so.

Maria left a trail of “total destruction” in Dominica, where authorities have confirmed seven people have died. Two more people lost their lives as the result of the storm in the French Caribbean territory of Guadeloupe.

Forecasters said it remained too early to know how close Maria will move to the U.S. mainland.