Story by Zachary Avery, Editor-in-Chief
After making landfall in southwestern Puerto Rico on Sunday, Sept 18, Hurricane Fiona has since left millions without power and 775,000 without clean water. With maximum sustained winds reaching, according to some reports, a remarkable 100 mph, this Category 1 hurricane has heralded in a remarkably similar vision to that of another devastating tropical storm that had struck the island only five years ago: Hurricane Maria.
Populated by just over 3 million people, Puerto Rico is an oft forgotten U.S. territory that sits at the whims of our federal government’s allocated aid and disaster relief budget. Thankfully, President Biden was quick to authorize an emergency declaration on Sept 18, guaranteeing coordination between the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to offer Puerto Rico the aid it so desperately needs. But, we’ve seen this all before.
In 2017, the Category 4 Hurricane Maria killed around 3000 people and absolutely leveled the island’s power and water infrastructure. The federal government afforded billions of dollars in relief to help rebuild Puerto Rico, but now, five years later, citizens are still victim to unreliable electricity. And the territory’s private electric utility, Luma Energy, is still vulnerable to blackouts.
Since Sept 18, power has been restored to approximately 100,000 of those citizens living closest to San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico. If the island continues on this pace, Governor Pedro Pierluisi may be able to fulfill his promise that Puerto Rico would recover its power in a matter of days following the hurricane, unlike the months it took for most to recover following Hurricane Maria. Or the years since that have still negatively affected those living in Puerto Rico’s most vulnerable areas.
Following its strike on Puerto Rico, Hurricane Fiona has since graduated to a Category 4 status, threatening territories surrounding the Gulf of Mexico and eventually projected to land as a major storm upon the large peninsula region of Atlantic Canada. This trajectory has led many inhabitants of Canada’s most populated province to prepare for the worst. And with winds reaching 130 miles per hour and extraordinary rainfall, it is not unreasonable to anticipate the destruction this newest named storm will certainly bring to our neighbors to the north.
As for Puerto Rico? It may take some time before our fellow Americans begin to see their island return to the state it was before either Fiona or Maria hit. Not days, not months. Probably years.