Hurricane Maria’s Monstrous Effect on Puerto Rico

Diya Kulkarni ‘20

More than 4 months have passed since Hurricane Maria swept through the Bahamas and continued north where the peak of the Hurricane left Puerto Rico in devastation. Hurricane Maria was one of the worst natural disasters that affected Puerto Rico. Furthermore, it was the second Category 5 hurricane to hit the Atlantic just in 2017. The hurricane caused damage which will cost the region $100 billion dollars and also included a total death toll of 547 people as of November 20th, 499 of which were from Puerto Rico. The hurricane is on record to be the third costliest cyclone, behind Katrina and Harvey.

Maria became a tropical storm on September 16th. Prime weather conditions strengthened the storm as it headed towards Puerto Rico.  It became a Category 5 Hurricane on the 18th and reached its peak as it was passing over the Caribbean. At its prime, Maria had 175 mph winds and a pressure of 908 mbar. By the time it approached Puerto Rico on the 20th, it had dropped to a Category 4. However, the damages were not any less. About 80,000 still remained without power after Hurricane Irma. Despite the preparations the government made for the second hurricane coming their way, The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) had a $9 billion dollar debt which forced them to file for bankruptcy. Additionally, there was a problem with the water system on the island, which had been further worsened by the natural disasters. 70% of the island did not meet the standards of the Safe Drinking Water Act (1974) (3).

All of these aspects added up and caused the worst possible outcome for the people in Puerto Rico. “Hurricane Maria was detrimental to Puerto Rico with many deaths and countless damage which will cost billions to fix,” says Allison Farber ‘20. There is no doubt the country is still recovering and may not be able to fully recuperate and go back to the country it once was. Arianna Minassian ‘19 states her opinion, “its impact has endured far beyond just a few weeks as now, even 4 months later, its effect is still being felt. Countless have died, become injured and have been displaced from their homes. As a nation, we should do everything we can to help Puerto Ricans through this difficult time” As a member of our Ridge High School Community, Arianna feels it is mandatory that The United States contributes to helping Puerto Rico recover.

Many critics, both Democratic and Republic, feel the President and government in general has been slow to respond to the territory’s needs. He visited the country 2 weeks after the natural disaster and said it was not “a real catastrophe” like Hurricane Katrina was. He also reminded the Puerto Rican citizens of how much federal money they were costing the US (4). Congress was slow to respond to the crisis as well and the only substantial act they made was to approve more money that would go to FEMA for the natural disaster relief fund. Arul Gupta ‘20 sadly says, “It’s unfortunate that the United States is showing so little support for a territory of our own.” The Federal Emergency Management Agency has donated numerous supplies, along with NGOs such as the Red Cross (1). Despite these efforts Puerto Rico still lacks some of its basic necessities.

Some of those things include electricity and water. 90% of the country was left without electricity for weeks after the storm hit. The president of the Puerto Rican Energy Commission is desperate to find ways to give inhabitants more electricity. The Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rossello did not have a clue when the power grid would be fully running without flaws. It is estimated to have cost the country $5 billion to repair the island’s electricity alone because the storm had eradicated almost everything in its path (2). Additionally, the blow the Puerto Rican economy took was one of the most prominent. Due to the income they receive on tourism, and the lack of it for the past month, the region will have to work twice as hard to get back on its feet. Furthermore, due to the lack of sanitation and hospitals in Puerto Rico, disease is running rampant and causing a numerous amount of casualties. People such as Elon Musk and Governor Cuomo from New York have gone above and beyond what they are expected to do in order to help their fellow citizens in every way possible. Popular singer, Pitbull even donated his private jet to take people from Puerto Rico to the hospital for care. Ridge High School can learn from these people and always know to lend a hand to others when they need it no matter where they originate from.