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Home » Learn » Puerto Rico in the Wake of Hurricane Irma

Puerto Rico in the Wake of Hurricane Irma

It seems every month there is a new natural disaster uprooting families, lives, and homes. This year alone, Mexico was taken by surprise with a 7.1 magnitude earthquake, Bangladesh faced devastation following massive monsoons and floods, California is experiencing vast and terrifying wildfires, Colombia fell victim to deadly mudslides, and hurricanes ripped through the Caribbean, Texas, and the southern United States. Hurricane Maria is the tenth most intense hurricane the Atlantic Ocean has ever seen. As a well-formed category five storm, it was powerful and devastating.

Puerto Rico is an island in the Caribbean; a hotspot for tourism, especially for cruise ship travelers. They have a rich culture with people who share a deep sense of pride in their Puerto Rican heritage. However, in September 2017, Hurricane Maria struck and with winds up to 175 miles per hour, it devastated the island and surrounding Caribbean islands. Maria wiped out Puerto Rico’s electrical grid and caused what some are calling a catastrophic humanitarian crisis. Puerto Rico is a country in need of help to restore their strong manufacturing industry. If you can use resources you have at your disposal to help this country, you will be met with gratitude and open arms.


Hurricanes Explained

National Geographic looked at hurricane trends over the last ten years to see if they could figure out why we’ve been relatively lucky in dodging the full wrath of these wild storms. They noted that despite a higher-than-average number of storms reaching hurricane force winds, they seemed to always turn at the last moment, or weaken just before hitting shorelines. That was at least the case until 2017. The US and Caribbean saw three major, deadly hurricanes in the same season. So why the sudden spike?

The National Hurricane Center called this 2017 season “extremely active.” And while experts are quick to warn us about the very real threat of climate change, they report that climate change did not directly cause this season’s hurricane activity. This was instead a mild, but clear warning for what the future could look like if we don’t make appropriate changes to ward off climate change.

Hurricanes are caused by warm ocean temperatures, and this season saw unusually warm Atlantic temperatures. El Niño was also a contributing factor, as the system was lacking this season. A more active El Niño system typically cools the Atlantic waters, serving as a line of defense against some hurricanes.

Another alarming factor is the speed at which these storms generated power. Typically their growth is slower because they have to overpower temperatures and pressure patterns. But the conditions this year allowed the storms to develop with little to no resistance. A hurricane needs low pressure and warm temperatures; the exact recipe that propelled this year’s hurricane season.

While this hurricane season was not as bad as the one we saw in 2005, it takes a close second. In 2005, The National Hurricane Center retired five names from ever being used again, this year they anticipate retiring three names – Harvey, Maria, and Irma.

Why Puerto Rico Needs Our Help

As of right now, the major manufacturing industry that used to contribute to Puerto Rico’s wealth is no longer functioning at its full capacity. The hurricane damaged a large portion of their infrastructure and efforts are being sent to help rebuild.

Elon Musk, founder and CEO of Tesla, SpaceX, The Boring Company, Solar City, and Neuralink (to name a few of his companies), single-handedly restored power to a local children’s hospital which was unable to function before the donation of renewable energy resources. If you are motivated to help, but also want a long-term benefit as a result of helping, follow Musk’s example.

His donation helped thousands of people and saved countless lives. It’s this kind of innovation and generosity that the world needs now. Crises are not isolated to remote, undeveloped parts of the world – we are all vulnerable and we should all be able to rely on our neighbors to help get back on our feet.

Puerto Rico still doesn’t have access to electricity or safe drinking water. A reported 80% of their crops have been destroyed. Work and school have still not resumed and some are viewing this experience as a trip back in time. People are playing board games, telling stories, gathering to cook and eat together on shared gas stoves and bonfires made from downed logs. They still only have cell service in certain parts of the island, and it is spotty at best.

If you have a Puerto Rico virtual number, this will make it that much easier for your friends and family in Puerto Rico to contact you when they are able to. Donations of food and water items are highly appreciated. Additionally, help is greatly needed to rebuild buildings and clear the roads.

According to the New York Times, before the disaster took place, most Americans didn’t know that Puerto Rico was considered part of the United States as a territory, and if they did know, they weren’t sure in what capacity.

Once the minimum requirements are met for safe and basic survival needs (food, water, healthcare, travel), Puerto Rico will need help restoring previous industries to ensure the country can continue to move forward. Crime is at an all-time high as the streets are dark without electricity at night, and officials are called to attend to the greater volumes of medical and safety needs of their citizens. Once these factors are taken care of and under control, the manufacturing, tourism, and insurance industries will need to be rebuilt.

Preventative & Safety Measures

Preparation is always crucial, and it can make the aftermath of a storm bearable and survivable. Having enough water and nonperishable food will alleviate some of the stress associated with potential power loss and the lack of access to drinking water. Generators are also hugely beneficial, along with spare gas. However, sometimes preparation isn’t enough to get people ready for the potential destruction that follows a storm.

If it is possible to evacuate a dangerous situation, that is most advisable. However, we know it is not always possible and preparation and finding safe ground are the only alternatives.

For those of us on the outside of these limiting and dangerous conditions, we can help. Either by donating or in a more hands-on way wherever possible. The damage suffered in Puerto Rico is incomprehensible, however, we know that in time, and with the right guidance, the country will be rebuilt and ready to return to its previous glory.

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