Hurricane Maria Lashes Puerto Rico, Knocking Out Power to Entire Island

Hurricane Maria (lower) and Hurricane Jose (above). (NASA/NOAA GOES Project)
Hurricane Maria (lower) and Hurricane Jose (above). (NASA/NOAA GOES Project)

The first Category 4 hurricane to make landfall in Puerto Rico since 1932 is leaving its mark on the tropical Caribbean island, packing extreme winds and knocking out power to all 3.4 million residents.

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Maria has been downgraded to a Category 3 storm, with winds topping 115 mph (185 km/h). The eye has moved past Puerto Rico, but not before hitting the island with winds as high as 155 mph (250 km/h).

News reports and social media are providing the first glimmers of the devastation reaped by Maria; images show twisted trees, intense flooding, roofs being stripped away, and large pieces of debris hurtling through the air.

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“We are 100 percent without power,” exclaimed a spokesperson for the Puerto Rico governor’s office earlier today. “Puerto Rico, in terms of the infrastructure, will not be the same...This is something of historic proportions.” The claim of an island-wide blackout was confirmed by a spokeswoman for the Puerto Rico State Agency for Emergency and Disaster Management. Abner Gómez, who heads the agency, said the hurricane had damaged “everything in its path,” according to the BBC.

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Thousands of people are currently huddled in more than 500 shelters located around the island. One of the biggest, the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, is currently sheltering around 600 people, and it was near the center of the storm when it passed through. The storm has already left seven people dead on the island of Dominica, but there are no reports of deaths or injuries so far in Puerto Rico.

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Given that the storm isn’t even over, it’s too early to know how quickly electricity will be restored. Puerto Rico is currently grappling with a $73 billion debt crisis that has weakened its public health and infrastructure systems, creating an exodus of professionals to the United States. Earlier today, Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Rosselló, asked President Trump to declare the US territory a disaster area, which if granted, would provide the island with more federal assistance for its recovery.

Illustration for article titled Hurricane Maria Lashes Puerto Rico, Knocking Out Power to Entire Island
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From here, Maria is expected to lash the northern coasts of Haiti and the Domincan Republic, and then make an evasive manuver northwards, possibly skirting the eastern Bahamas. It’s still too early to tell if the US mainland will be affected, or where.

[NOAA National Hurricane Center, NYT, CNN, BBC]

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George is a senior staff reporter at Gizmodo.

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DISCUSSION

aqua-impura
Aqua-Impura

I firmly believe Puerto Rico should be a state. They voted for statehood and would be the 29th most populated US State beating out states like Utah, Delaware, New Hampshire, etc.

If Trump and the US Government doesn’t extend Puerto Rico the full extent of support they need I’m going to be infuriated. Those people are American Citizens and I truly fear they won’t get all the support they need right now.

Puerto Rico is in trouble because the US treats it like an unwanted step child. They are our people too and they need assistance. This hurricane is just more damage that they’ll need to overcome and I truly don’t know if Trump will care enough to fight for them.