Puerto Ricans in dire straits after Maria, resident says

Mauro Flores, Staff Writer

Puerto Rico, which suffered damage in September by Hurricane Irma, was later devastated by Hurricane Maria.

“I was at home with my family because it wasn’t safe to be outside when the winds picked up and the rain started,” Natalia Amador Perez said about what her family went through with Hurricane Maria.

“We always prepare for hurricanes by stocking up on supplies like food and batteries,” Perez added.

She said Maria would be a different storm from others which passed by the U.S. territory.

I guess the best way to describe my feelings after the storm is impotence. There was nothing we could do but wait and hope for the best.”

— Natalia Amador Perez

“Officials on the island warned that Hurricane Maria would be a lot more devastating than others and that we could be without power for weeks, possibly months,” Perez said.

The family rode out the powerful storm inside their house.

“Hurricane Maria was like nothing I have ever experienced. Even in our concrete house, we could feel the force of the winds outside,” Perez said. “Through the windows, we could see palm trees bending and trees being ripped out of the ground. There were large pieces of debris flying around everywhere.”

They were very scared, Perez added.

She said neighbors teamed up in an effort to share supplies.

The community really came together to help each other out after the storm had passed, she said.

“We shared food and water with one another. We helped clear the streets of debris so cars could pass through,” Perez said.

Puerto Ricans were not expecting Hurricane Maria to be as strong as it was, Perez said.

“We are used to getting hit by hurricanes every year. Sometimes we prepare for a hurricane, and at the last minute, it changes course and misses us altogether. Officials warned us that Hurricane Maria would be worse than any other storm we experienced, but I don’t think you’re ever truly prepared for something so catastrophic and scary,” Perez said.

Perez found out about the problems others had through social media posts.

“I was able to reach some of my friends through social media and was reading people’s pleas for help as the floodwaters kept rising,” Perez said. “Several of my family members had to be rescued from their rooftops. I guess the best way to describe my feelings after the storm is impotence. There was nothing we could do but wait and hope for the best.”

Perez said her family has faced many challenges with lack of supplies since the storm passed.

“We have been without power for two weeks and we have limited resources. We have to wait for eight hours to get gas. Stores are running out of supplies and food. We have to travel further out in order to get stuff that we need,” Perez said.

She said there are very few police officers to patrol the streets.

“There is limited police presence so looting is a problem in some areas. The governor set a curfew to help keep people safe so we are not allowed to be out between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.,” Perez added.

Perez said there are no easy solutions for the problems people face.

“I just want people to know that the situation is dire. There are a lot of Puerto Ricans in remote areas that don’t have access to clean water, food, or even medications,” Perez said. “The heat and humidity are unbearable. Hospitals are running out of fuel for their generators and patients have died as a result. Recovery is going to take a very long time.”

Social Studies instructor Aemie Martinez contributed to this story.