Puerto Rico gov urges caution ahead of hurricane with ‘devastating potential’
SAN JUAN – Hurricane María may be “the storm with the greatest devastating potential in a century in Puerto Rico,” Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said, pleading on Tuesday for people to seek refuge in one of the island’s 500 shelters.
“I want to reiterate that this a moment of extreme danger for Puerto Rico. Possibly, the most dangerous storm in Puerto Rico’s modern history, a life-threatening storm, a storm that, if we don’t take precautions, we will have loss of life,” he stressed.
Despite not specifying how many people should be seeking shelter, the governor urged people to take “the necessary actions to save lives.” There are more than 299 people already in shelters, but Rosselló assured that number would rise.
During his most recent press conference at Puerto Rico State Agency for Emergency and Disaster Management (Aemead by its Spanish acronym) headquarters, Rosselló emphasized that the hurricane’s winds will be felt on the island all day Wednesday, with rain continuing through Saturday.
The governor anticipated that “it is possible that for a significant period of time, at least three or four days, we are in a [power] blackout…or that communications are very limited” after María leaves.
Rosselló requested on more than one occasion that those who live in danger zones, particularly flood-prone areas and have homes with wood or zinc roofs, should evacuate. “Property can be repaired later, but lives cannot be replaced,” he said.
“Our call is for people to evacuate areas that are prone to floods and landslides, in addition to vulnerable structures, because hurricane Category 3 winds are expected. We are informing citizens that it is time to seek refuge with a family member, friend, or move to a state shelter because rescuers will not go out and risk their lives once winds reach 50 miles per hour,” he reiterated in a release.
Due to the storm’s slow pace of 9 mph, Rosselló asked citizens to be prepared to stay hunkered down for 72 to 90 hours, and asked for people to ignore the exact point where María would enter the island because “this is going to impact all of Puerto Rico.”
Without substantial changes to Maria’s characteristics, meteorologist Ernesto Morales of the National Weather Service said local conditions will begin to deteriorate late Tuesday. He added the hurricane could bring between 12 to 18 inches of rainfall.
The most recent bulletin from the National Hurricane Center (NHC) places María at latitude 16.2 North and longitude 62.8 West. After reducing its strength to Category 4 after passing over Dominica, it is back to a Category 5, with sustained winds of 160 mph.
Federal funds disbursed
Meanwhile, the regional director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Alejandro de la Campa, indicated that affected families in the municipalities of Vieques, Culebra, Loíza and Canóvanas received $100,000 for rental assistance.
He added that the Government of Puerto Rico will also receive an advance of more than half a million dollars based on the emergency measures taken for Hurricane Irma, which skirted northeast coast of the island a little less than two weeks ago as Category 5.
Rosselló said in a release that “it is inaccurate” that water and power services will be suspended Tuesday, “as rumored in social networks.”
The president of the Puerto Rico Aqueducts and Sewers Authority (Prasa), Elí Díaz, announced that at 3 p.m. Tuesday, the utility’s generators “will be protected.” Some 1,800 customers will be affected in Lomas del Sol, Linda Gardens, Camarones Centro, Santa Clara, and Hollywood Hills in Guaynabo; Los Cottos in San Juan, Barrio Nuevo 3 in Bayamón, Terrenos in Trujillo Alto, Sonadora Palmazola in Aguas Buenas, Hormigas in Caguas, and Gino in Luquillo.
Meanwhile, the airports in Ponce and Aguadilla will close Tuesday at 6 p.m., while the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport will close at 7 p.m.
For information and help, citizens can call (787) 724-0124 or 311 and, in case of an emergency, 911.
For up-to-date information on the storm, visit temporadadehuracanes.pr.gov.