One Year Later: Damage remains across Puerto Rico following back-to-back hurricanes
More than a year after a deadly hurricane hit the island of Puerto Rico, recovery is slow.
“The problem is there,” Puerto Rican Carlos Tirado said. "We are a year away from the next hurricane season and we still have people with blue tarps over their houses."
During a recent trip to Puerto Rico Iowa native and star of American Pickers, Danielle Colby, showed TV6’s Chris Carter some of the damage left behind. A number of homes don’t have those blue tarps.
"The recovery effort is still going on and will be going on for a while,” Colby said.
In the community of San Juan, which is the furthest along in recovery, Colby showed Carter several homes without tarps. One man sleeps under an umbrella and towels.
“The problems are there,” Tirado reiterated during an interview. “We not only had them from Maria and Irma, a lot old problems that were not visible are out and we can see them."
A number of those problems include substandard housing and poor infrastructure and still across the island more than 50% of the traffic lights don’t work. Those are reasons Colby is on the island helping with recovery. She’s also working to give voice to the community and protecting the island from future storms.
"They're speaking,” Colby said. “We're just not hearing them. Puerto Rico needs thought leaders. Puerto Rican thought leaders. Puerto Rico needs children who can grow up and understand what it was like to go through these hurricanes. We're not going to have to wait generations for more weird weather. This is just a pattern now."
Colby is helping the island with protecting the island by helping them prepare for the next storm. Many people were when Hurricane Maria hit but with back to back hurricanes resources were limited.
"We got Irma and people were prepared,” Tirado said. “Irma didn’t do the damage we expected so all these people here emptied their pantries and sent supplies down island to the places that got hurt during Irma all of sudden two weeks later we have a hurricane of our own and our pantries are empty."
Colby’s boyfriend and the locals are all working together to make the recovery happen. They are working to act, prepare and recover.
"We are resilient,” Tirado said. “We will not stop. Our people got out on the streets as soon as they could to start cutting wood to clear the ways even before FEMA, even before the National Guard and even before the municipalities, who should be the first ones coming out to help."
A number of people have said, in many ways, the U.S. Government failed them by not providing with the resources they needed. FEMA did put out an internal audit of its response earlier this year. The report found Puerto Rico’s emergency-supply warehouses were nearly empty when Hurricane Maria hit because many of the supplies had been rerouted to the U.S. Virgin Islands which had been impacted by Hurricane Irma.
The report also found FEMA had been understaffed going into the hurricane season and that most specialized disaster staffers were deployed to other storms when Hurricane Maria struck.