Puerto Rico issues an island-wide heat advisory for the first time as power outages persist

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Meteorologists on Tuesday for the first time issued a heat advisory for the entire island of Puerto Rico, struggling with chronic power outages as it broils under an unrelenting sun.

All 78 of the U.S. territory's municipalities were placed under a heat advisory or warning, as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands. This is the first time forecasters have extended a heat advisory beyond Puerto Rico’s coastal areas since the alert system was put in place six years ago.

Heat indexes were expected to reach up to 114 degrees Fahrenheit (about 46 degrees Celsius) along most of Puerto Rico's coastal areas on Tuesday and through Wednesday morning as a dense cloud of Saharan dust from Africa blankets the island.

Ernesto Morales, warning coordination meteorologist with the San Juan National Weather Service, told The Associated Press that while the entire island has met heat advisory criteria before, this is the first time it has been issued island-wide.

“Just like hurricane or flood warnings, we want the public to make decisions taking these advisories into account,” Morales said. He noted that climate change and warming waters are contributing to the island’s oppressive heat.

The advisory is in effect from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The dense layer of Saharan dust — composed of mineral dust from West Africa — moving across Puerto Rico and the Atlantic on Tuesday is making the heat worse. The dust particles are considered a health hazard, especially for those with allergies or weakened immune systems.