Recent flooding highlights Puerto Rico’s continued vulnerabilities to natural disasters
In early February, Puerto Rico received heavy floods which caused landslides, school and road closures, and residents fearing for more natural disasters yet to hit the United States territory. Puerto Rico has suffered through considerable natural disasters, specifically in the last decade. Since hurricanes Maria and Irma in 2017, Puerto Rico has had to brace for hurricane season each year, especially as climate change intensifies.
Research has shown that climate change has had a profound effect on the number and type of natural disasters that Puerto Rico received, which will continue to impact the US territory. Due to high sediment production in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico is at higher risk of catastrophic landslides in the aftermath of storms. This was seen in the recent flooding in February, that produced severe land slippage and mudslides on major roadways. From recent storms and past storms, fear is constantly instilled in Puerto Rico and its inhabitants, specifically as the islands face the consequences of climate change.
From July to November each year, Puerto Rico has to galvanize as a series of hurricanes and typhoons pass through the Caribbean. In 2020, several earthquakes hit Puerto Rico, causing a territory-wide electrical blackout. In response, residents felt massive anxiety for future natural disasters to come. Since Hurricane Maria, many who call Puerto Rico home have suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome. With each natural hazard to hit Puerto Rico, such as the recent floodings, residents prepare and stress for the worst.
Recovery from these natural disasters in Puerto Rico is challenging. Even years after Hurricane Maria, thousands of homes are still covered in tarp. Weekly power outages are rampant, even in the capital city of San Juan. In addition, locals are still processing psychological stress disorders which are highly evident since the hurricane; research shows that 13% of locals have begun taking new prescription medications to handle trauma post-hurricane. Since natural disasters are so unpredictable, recovery from past storms and preparation for those upcoming is arduous and seemingly impossible.
The suffering of Puerto Rican inhabitants through the recent fatal and destructive natural disasters has been grueling. Because of these natural disasters, residents are on high alert with each new storm, big or small, as seen with the recent heavy flooding of February. For now, residents continue to recover from these storms and prepare for any potential upcoming storms that could hit Puerto Rico.