Thursday, October 19, 2017

Puerto Rico gov declares state of emergency ahead of Hurricane María

By on September 18, 2017

SAN JUAN – Gov. Ricardo Rosselló announced Monday that he signed an executive order to declare a state of emergency for Puerto Rico ahead of Hurricane María’s passage over the island.

Likewise, the governor requested President Donald Trump to declare a state of emergency for federal reimbursement of funds used in damage mitigation efforts before María moves over the island.

Meteorologist Ernesto Morales of the National Meteorological Service (SNM by its Spanish initials) said Hurricane María’s forecast uncertainty “is very low” and “confidence” is high, and recommended taking precautionary measures before the storm.

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“The system is forecast to be Category 3 or 4 passing over the island of Puerto Rico. The radius of hurricane winds is 25 miles; therefore, all Puerto Rico will be experiencing hurricane conditions,” said the meteorologist, who forecast 12 to 18 inches of rain on the island. “The forecast says the system is going to slow down to 8 [miles per hour] to 10 miles per hour. We will be under its effects for a longer period,” he added.

“Severe flooding is expected,” the governor warned. “We are urging that if you are in a dangerous area don’t think it won’t happen. Experts have told you today that the margin of error is very slim here.”

Specifically, Rosselló asked mayors to help with the evacuation of communities with a high risk of flooding, such as Playita in Salinas; Juana Matos in Cataño; Barrio Islote in Arecibo; and Amelia in Guaynabo. He added that there are maps to identify areas prone to flooding and the closest shelters in each region that can be found by visiting temporadadehuracanes.pr.gov.

Since Sept. 3, the Consumer Affairs Department (DACO for its Spanish acronym) had issued a price freeze order, which is still in effect for basic necessities such as ice and fuel. Regarding the availability of gasoline, diesel and liquefied gas, DACO Secretary Michael Pierluisi said he believes there is sufficient inventory for 20 to 30 days.

“This is very dangerous. If it hits us as projected, it will be much more dangerous than [hurricanes] Hugo or Georges,” cautioned Rosselló, who said there are already 450 shelters islandwide ready for 62,714 people, and up to 125,428 in an escalated emergency situation with food for up to 20 days.

There are still 192 people in shelters after Hurricane Irma–51 in Canóvanas, eight in Vieques and 128 in the Convention Center in San Juan.

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Preparation efforts

The governor said more doctors were sent to the Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Vieques, and additional personnel could be sent if the Health Department required so after the president declares a state of emergency.

Regarding hospitals in areas prone to flooding, the governor said they have a “outlined strategy” to transfer patients, if necessary.

Ferries to the island-municipalities of Vieques and Culebra continue to operate normally Monday. The Coast Guard ordered these vessels to dock at 8 p.m., so the last trips will leave Fajardo Monday at noon.

Meanwhile, the toll system will be free of charge during the hurricane.

Rosselló said he asked that eight construction cranes be lowered, and that three were already being worked on. He warned the rest that the police could force them to abide by the order.

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