Hurricane Maria

Contributed by Peter Bailey

The month of June is full of festivals, celebrating all kinds of heritage. 

 

Besides Pride, it's also Caribbean Heritage Month.

 

Atlanta has one of the largest contingents of U.S. Virgin Islanders living on the U.S. mainland.

 


On Second Thought For Friday, April 27, 2018

Apr 27, 2018

It’s been seven months since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. Blackouts continue. Utility crews on the island are still in emergency restoration mode. As recovery continues on the island, Georgia Tech’s Economic Development Lab (EDL) has opened free office space in Atlanta’s Tech Square to entrepreneurs and researchers from Puerto Rico. It's an expansion of a program Georgia Tech has had in place since 2012.

Leighton Rowell / GPB

It’s been seven months since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. Blackouts continue. Utility crews on the island are still in emergency restoration mode.

 

As recovery continues on the island, Georgia Tech’s Economic Development Lab (EDL) has opened free office space in Atlanta’s Tech Square to entrepreneurs and researchers from Puerto Rico. It's an expansion of a program Georgia Tech has had in place since 2012.

Jamily Ali Pons, a biomedical student from Puerto Rico's Inter-American University, is one researcher continuing her work in the EDL.

This week, we learned that the Federal Emergency Management Agency canceled the contract of an Atlanta-based company operating in Puerto Rico.

The reason? That Atlanta company was really just one woman.

She promised to deliver 30 million meals to the people of Puerto Rico... but only delivered 50,000.

GPB’s Emily Cureton reports from Río Grande, Puerto Rico.

RICKEY BEVINGTON: Emily, tell us about this Atlanta based enterprise called Tribute Contracting.

The Puerto Rican effort to advance from response to recovery after Hurricane Maria continues. For some, water and electricity are still elusive. And that makes it hard to get back to normal — especially for children.

An after-school program is designed to pick up when school lets out. The program – which has no formal name – is organized by volunteers and the nonprofit Save the Children. In a territory still lacking basic utilities in some places, Facebook access and YouTube videos are a lower priority. But kids need something to do.

Some universities on the U.S. mainland are offering assistance to students in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean affected by Hurricane Maria. Several schools have gone as far as waiving tuition, others have offered reduced tuition by granting in-state status.

Eighteen-year-old Mariela Serrano arrived in Miami to attend Florida International University a month before Hurricane Maria devastated her home in Puerto Rico. Then, FIU announced it would give students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in-state tuition, extending the offer to current students like Serrano.

Hurricane Maria left destruction throughout Puerto Rico when it slammed the island last week. It also tore down most of the communications infrastructure that connects the U.S. territory with the rest of the world, including the millions of Puerto Ricans living on the mainland.

Last month, Hurricane Harvey brought unprecedented flooding to the Houston area. More than two weeks ago, Hurricane Irma hit Florida as a remarkably massive and long-lasting storm.

Those storms have long since dissipated. Now much of the focus has shifted to Hurricane Maria, which remains an active storm — a storm that caused devastation in Puerto Rico, which is still reeling from the immediate impact.

In a tiny sliver of shade, on a hill next to Puerto Rico's Route 65, Kiara Rodriguez de Jesus waves a sparkly pink hand fan to keep cool.

"I trust in God," she says. "Please, come the gas."

Along with her family, parked in a Volvo SUV, she has been in line for gasoline since 3 a.m., she says. Now it's after 1:30 p.m. And like everyone else at this gas station, she has no idea how much longer she'll be waiting.

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Updated at 11 p.m. ET

Puerto Rico is trying to start the process of recovering from Hurricane Maria — and it's doing so after the powerful storm blew homes apart, filled roads with water and tore at its infrastructure. Flash floods are persisting, and the island has no electricity service.

"We are without power, the whole island is without power," Jenniffer González-Colón, Puerto Rico's resident commissioner — its representative in Congress — told Morning Edition on Thursday. González-Colón spoke from Carolina, near San Juan.

Updated at 2:45 a.m. ET Thursday

Hurricane Maria has damaged Puerto Rico's power infrastructure in ways that, in a worst-case scenario, could take months to repair, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló told CNN late Wednesday.

"Our telecommunications system is partially down," he said. "Our energy infrastructure is completely down."

Updated at 5:30 a.m. ET Wednesday

Even though Maria has weakened to a Category 4 storm, it remains a dangerous hurricane. Maria's maximum sustained winds are near 155 mph. The National Hurricane Center says the storm should keep that intensity until it makes landfall. Puerto Rico has long been spared from a direct hit by a hurricane.

Updated at 2:20 a.m. ET Wednesday

Updated at 5:30 a.m. ET

The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Maria is an extremely dangerous storm. It was a Category 5 storm when it hit the island of Dominica. Later it was downgraded to a Category 4 hurricane. But a short time ago, forecasters says Maria had regained the strength of a Category 5 hurricane.

Updated at 3:15 a.m. ET Tuesday