More than four months have passed since Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico. Hurricane Maria made landfall over Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017 as a powerful category four hurricane, packing maximum sustained winds of 155 mph.
Since the horrific landfall, life on the island has been anything but normal.
WeatherNation’s affiliate, CBS12 in West Palm Beach Florida, traveled to Puerto Rico to see conditions first hand.
CBS12 reporter Yaremi Farinas and photojournalist Christopher Hinson spoke with residents as they continue to rebuild after the storm. Here is the story they share from the island and the people affected:
“To be completely honest, a lot of them are very devastated,” said Farinas. “They have a lot of strength and resilience, but you can tell that this has affected them in a way that they never expected. Most of them saying they knew Maria was going to cause damage, but they didn’t know it was going to be total destruction.”
“You can be prepared for the hurricane,” said Desiree Montalvo Battistini, resident of Utuado, Puerto Rico. “The emotional part, the physical part after it [the hurricane], it’s not easy.”
The sights around the island are still shocking.
“There it is, just heartbreaking. It’s heartbreaking to see the way people are living,” said Farinas. “I mean, they are living in what’s left of their homes. They almost look like ‘I have no other choice’. They’ve kind of accepted that’s the way their going to live for now…but it’s four months later.”
“For electricity, they told us it was going to be until June or July to have electricity. So, it’s going to take a long time to recuperate from this disaster”, Desiree said.
Yaremi Farinas explains to WeatherNation what she experienced while walking around San Juan.
“We were walking around old San Juan and there’s a cruise ship there, there are tourists walking around– they think everything is okay because it looks fine but as soon as you go 20 minutes west of San Juan, you’ll see that it’s not okay. Blue tarps are everywhere, some of them don’t even have tarps, they have holes in their walls, so you can see the mountains from inside their house. Mold is a huge problem. A lot of them– a lot of the rivers overflowed, so they had maybe 8-10 feet of mud in their home, so you can imagine it took forever to take that out of for them to take out the mud from inside their homes, so all their pipes are messed up. Even though their power is restored, they need electricians to inspect their systems to make sure it’s safe to turn on the power. In most cases, it’s not– which is why you see so many people without power.”
“This isn’t just an isolated incident– this is happening all over Puerto Rico,” said Farinas.
Farinas reports that San Juan and the western most part of the island appear to be doing okay. According to Farinas, the communities located along the central part of the island and rural communities are suffering severely.
“Puerto Rico is not okay,” said Farinas. “These people are living in deplorable condition. They are scare that snakes and rates are entering their homes. They’re going day by day hoping that help will come and they will be able to get up on their feet– but the recovery process hasn’t even started yet. This is just like the day after Maria for many people that I have spoken to here in Puerto Rico.”
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
Those who are interested in helping out residents of Puerto Rico should consider a monetary donation. The Red Cross continues to support those recovering from the storm. Click the link to make a charitable donation.
There are several other organizations that will accept contributions for continuing support, not only in Puerto Rico but other areas affected by this devastating hurricane season. Here are a few of those: MariaFund.org , Fund for the Virgin Islands , Unidos por Puerto Rico, Unidos by the Hispanic Federation, Dominica Relief, AmericCares, and so many more. We encourage you to check your local area for continued relief efforts.
For WeatherNation: Meteorologist Nick Merianos