Hurricane Maria hit the island of Puerto Rico in September 2017, which was more than eight months ago now. The island still does not have a power grid that can survive another hurricane season, and there are even parts of the island that remain without power.
“We’re American citizens and we feel like we’ve been forgotten,” said Woodrow Reyes’s 85-year-old father Manuel.
This family has had to use a generator to get by because they still don’t have electricity. They are now struggling to afford the gas that they need to power the generator.
As of Friday, hurricane season is officially on. The people of Puerto Rico have so many questions about the island’s preparedness for the upcoming season. After the death toll of the last hurricane being astronomically high, the residents have a right to be scared.
According to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, 99% of the customers now have service. That means one out of every 100 people is still without power. Additionally, having power is not the same as having guaranteed power when the next hurricane comes around. If it has taken this long to restore power this time, how long will the people of Puerto Rico be out the next time a storm hits?
According to Michael Byrne, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s top official in Puerto Rico overseeing the response to Hurricane Maria, they are much more prepared this time around than they were for Maria. There were 46 full-time staff members with the agency last year; this year, there are more than 3,000 workers on the island ready to take on a storm.
“We’re ready,” Byrne said. “We’re in a much better place than we were last year.”
They have more than two million meals prepped and 800,000 liters of water, which is enough to supply the island for several days while waiting for supplies to arrive from the American mainland.
It was a common complaint, though, that the United States did not do enough to support the Islanders while they suffered. Yulin Cruz, a citizen of Puerto Rico, said that the federal government forgot about her people.
“This is a tale of two disasters,” she says. “One made by nature and the other that was government-made.”
As of mid-2017, just before the hurricanes hit, American has a total solar power capacity of 47.1 gigawatts, which is enough to power 9.1 million homes, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. Maybe the United States will consider using solar power to help out the people of Puerto Rico this year if a similar situation happens again.