Hurricane Maria recovery efforts continue in Puerto Rico 3 years later

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PUERTO RICO – On Wednesday, FEMA reported nearly $7.3 billion approved to help rebuild Puerto Rico’s critical infrastructure and historical buildings still damaged from Hurricane Maria in 2017.

Three years later, many buildings on the island have blue tarps acting as roofs, leaving little protection against the elements.

Since Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico can’t seem to catch a break. Just earlier this year there was a 6.4 magnitude earthquake that left thousands of people displaced and millions without power for days.

The Adripina Seda public school stands partially collapsed after an earthquake struck Guanica, Puerto Rico, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020. A 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck Puerto Rico before dawn on Tuesday, killing one man, injuring others and collapsing buildings in the southern part of the island. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)
The Adripina Seda public school stands partially collapsed after an earthquake struck Guanica, Puerto Rico, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020. A 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck Puerto Rico before dawn on Tuesday, killing one man, injuring others and collapsing buildings in the southern part of the island. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

There were 12 earthquakes detected Wednesday. The biggest seismic activity recorded earlier was 3.0 just south of Guayanilla. Slap a pandemic into the mix plus damage from Isaias in July and yes, there are many places that still need help.

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Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, 2017 as a very strong Category 4 hurricane. It made landfall on the southeast coast of Yabucoa with winds at 155 mph, just below the threshold of a Category 5. Maria is the strongest tropical cyclone to hit the island since Segundo San Felipe, a Category 5 storm in 1928.

Sept. 20, 2017: Hurricane Maria made landfall in southeast Puerto Rico, ripping trees out of the ground and entangling two-thirds of the island in hurricane-force winds.
Sept. 20, 2017: Hurricane Maria made landfall in southeast Puerto Rico, ripping trees out of the ground and entangling two-thirds of the island in hurricane-force winds. (CNN)

Maria, a Category 1 hurricane, rapidly intensified to a Category 5 hurricane in a matter of 18 hours. Just before making landfall, Maria went through eye wall replacement bringing it to Category 4 status. The eye of the storm tripled from roughly 10 miles wide to 32 miles. Hurricane force winds were spread out and more areas experienced the hurricane-force winds.

The Doppler Radar in San Juan was destroyed. Officials with the National Weather Service there said the radar, due to its elevation, experienced winds near 160 mph as the hurricane made landfall.

NWS San Juan tweet showing the Doppler radar destroyed during Hurricane Maria in 2017.
NWS San Juan tweet showing the Doppler radar destroyed during Hurricane Maria in 2017. (NWS)

The radar was replaced nine months later.

Maria’s storm surge of 6-9 feet in addition to 38 inches of rainfall caused mudslides and even flooded the La Plata River and an entire valley. In Toa Baja, many rescues were made as people stood on their roofs.

Hurricane Maria left widespread damage across Puerto Rico and virtually the whole island without power or cell service. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Hurricane Maria left widespread damage across Puerto Rico and virtually the whole island without power or cell service. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Maria is one of the costliest hurricanes in U.S. history including the islands. Nearly $90 billion in damages were reported, putting it after Katrina in 2005 and Harvey in 2017. The death toll was updated to 2,975 in Puerto Rico alone.

More than 80% of the power poles and transmissions were knocked down leaving 3.4 million residents without power. At the end of January 2018, 65% of the island was still without power. Although most power has been restored, there have been massive outages, including one the day before Isaias. The power grid is still very fragile in the most active portion of an above-normal hurricane season.

Hurricane Maria left widespread damage across Puerto Rico and virtually the whole island without power or cell service. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Hurricane Maria left widespread damage across Puerto Rico and virtually the whole island without power or cell service. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

FEMA reports as of now, more than 4,800 projects have funding obligations. These are mainly for roads, bridges and public buildings. The federal funds will also help strengthen public safety and health care facilities.

Copyright 2020 by WKMG ClickOrlando – All rights reserved.



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