Updated: Jan 28, 2019
September 20, 2017, will forever be known as the date that Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico and devastated the island, while plunging all of its 3.4 million residents into a desperate humanitarian crisis.
Maria hit Puerto Rico as a Category 4 Hurricane with 155-mph winds, making it the third-strongest storm to make landfall in the U.S., and the worst storm to strike the island in over 80 years.
Maria spent her time on land uprooting trees, downing weather stations, destroying cell towers, and ripping wooden and tin roofs off homes. Electricity was cut off to 100 percent of the island, and access to clean water and food became limited for most. The electricity blackout was the largest blackout in U.S. history. Floodwaters were waist-high, more than 30 inches deep, with no way to prevent sewage from contaminating every inch of it.
According to the New England Journal of Medicine, households went 84 days without power, 68 days without water, and 41 days without cell service.
With in 24 hours the entire island of Puerto Rico was shook; and less than one percent of homeowners had flood insurance. Maria’s destruction adds up to as much as $94.4 billion USD in damages.
While most people have regained access to basic essentials at this point, the road to recovery is long, and many residents still need help. People are committed to building back better than before the storm.
Perspective - About one in 13 students have left the island since Maria hit. And the newest fiscal plan includes a measure to permanently close nearly 300 schools — roughly a quarter of all of the island's public schools. Those students who remain will continue dealing with the consequences of a sustained break in their educations, along with the stress of recovering from a natural disaster.
The two main elements of Puerto Rico’s economy, agriculture and tourism, both devastated by the storm. Now, over a year later, Puerto Rico is still on the journey of recovery.
This is the reason I decided to travel to Puerto Rico on a mission trip and not just on a vacation. Yes, we took time to experience the culture and natural beauty of the Island between volunteering and serving; but this was no vaca!
I spent the week with other like minded woman who are passionate about serving with a purpose! We spent time cleaning up the coast, helping those affected by the devastating hurricane, and learn more about how to help the Puerto Rico eco system thrive.
My next series of blog post will be sharing the stories we heard, wisdom we gained, historic and natural beauty we saw, and the fun memories we made!
Thank you Puerto Rico for your beautiful scenery, warm hospitality, and inviting culture! I will certainly be back! Hasta pronto PR, mi amor!