Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands see devastation after Hurricane Maria

by | Sep 21, 2017 | Headlines, Puerto Rico, United States Virgin Islands | Comments

After having smashed Dominica and Guadeloupe, Hurricane Maria slowed to a category 4 storm before hitting Puerto Rico on Wednesday morning. The maximum sustained winds were about 155 mph, strong enough to do significant damage. It is the strongest storm to hit the island since the 1930s. Based on it’s central pressure, by the time Maria hit Puerto Rico it was the third-strongest storm to ever make landfall in the United States. When the storm hit the US Virgin islands it was still a category 5 hurricane. While Puerto Rico avoided the worst of Hurricane Irma, the US Virgin islands were badly hit, were struggling to prepare for Hurricane Maria, and many residents were advised to evacuate the island. The storm hit the US Virgin islands starting Tuesday evening. The outer eyewall of the storms directly hit St. Croix bringing heavy rains, flash-flooding, and extreme winds.

As early as Wednesday morning there were already reports of flooding in Puerto Rico. In Gurabo one creek flooded, and the Rio de la Plata has seen water rising from 6 to 21 feet in less than 12 hours. As the Hurricane continued to pummel the islands reports of catastrophic flooding have been arriving.

There are around 500 shelters open in Puerto Rico. Some of those shelter occupants are refugees from Irma’s destruction of other Caribbean islands who were unable to leave Puerto Rico before Maria’s arrival. According to counts, More than 11,000 people with more than 580 pets, sought protection in the shelters.

As the storm approached Governor Ricardo Rosselló warned residents that Maria could hit “with a force and violence that we haven’t seen for several generations…We’re going to lose a lot of infrastructure in Puerto Rico…We’re going to have to rebuild.” His words would prove to be true as reports came that Hurricane Maria wiped out power to the entire territory. None of Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million people have electricity. The storm has destroyed most forms of communication of the islands, it disabled radar and weather stations, ripped up cell towers, and downed power. This means that there is little exact information about the exact amount of property damage, injuries, and deaths. The storm has destroyed hundreds of homes across the islands, and as of publishing time there was at least one report of a death. The storm also wiped out communications across the US Virgin Islands as well, and although the storm had passed the US Virgin Islands by Wednesday morning, the government is still assessing the damages.

In order to protect residents, Rossello issued a curfew from 18:00 until 6:00 until Saturday. He worries in the dark, without power to light the streets, debris and loose electrical wires could cause accidents and deaths. The curfew will also serve to help maintain public order on the island, and allow for rescue crews to reach those in need without interference.

President Trump approved disaster declarations for both Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. This will allow them to access federal relief funds for repairs and rebuilding after the storms have passed.