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Hurricane Maria Leaves Puerto Rico Without Electricity, Hits Dominican Republic

“We are without power, the whole island is without power,” Jenniffer González-Colón, Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner, tells NPR.

Electricity poles and power lines toppled by Hurricane Maria are seen in Humacao, Puerto Rico, Wednesday. The storm left the island without electricity service, officials say.

Puerto Rico is trying to start the process of recovering from Hurricane Maria — and it’s doing so after the powerful storm blew homes apart, filled roads with water, and tore at its infrastructure. Flash floods are persisting, and the island has no electricity service.

“We are without power, the whole island is without power,” Jenniffer González-Colón, Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner — its representative in Congress — told Morning Edition on Thursday. González-Colón spoke from Carolina, near San Juan.

Maria is currently passing north of the Dominican Republic — as midday neared on Thursday, its eye was 105 miles east-northeast of Puerto Plata and it was moving toward the northwest at 9 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. Maria’s maximum sustained winds of 115 mph make it a Category 3 hurricane.

In many places, Maria ruined repairs that had only just been completed after the island was hit with a glancing blow from the massively powerful Hurricane Irma. Puerto Rico is home to 3.4 million people; Maria is the strongest storm to hit there in decades.

NPR’s Greg Allen reported on the storm’s effects for our Newscast unit:

“Maria dropped a record 35 inches of rain in some places. Rivers across the island are out of their banks. Authorities opened the floodgates on reservoirs making flooding worse in some downstream communities. In Levittown, west of San Juan, flooding forced residents to their rooftops where they awaited rescue.

“In the city of Las Piedras, officials say they recorded wind gusts over 200 miles per hour. Maria’s high winds took roofs, destroyed homes and snapped concrete power poles in two.”

As the storm’s intense winds and high storm surge wreaked havoc on Puerto Rico yesterday, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz called for help from the mainland U.S., saying, “The Puerto Rico and San Juan we knew yesterday is no longer there.”

Speaking to González-Colón on Thursday, NPR’s David Greene asked for her impression.

“It is that bad,” she said. “I mean, there is devastation. People with wooden houses are no longer there. And all of the forests and palm trees — they’re not there. It’s bare soil. It is devastating, and I hope we can recover soon.”

Dangerous winds persisted last night, González-Colón says: “It was a long day last night, because the hurricane winds which began at 1 a.m. [continued ] until midnight.”

Coordinating relief and recovery efforts will also be a challenge: Gov. Ricardo Rosselló told CNN late Wednesday, “Our telecommunications system is partially down.”

Maria’s path put most of the Dominican mercifully outside the storm’s 60-mile extension of hurricane-force winds, but heavy rains and tropical-storm conditions are hitting the island. Still, parts of the Dominican Republic can expect to see a dangerous storm surge and large waves, with water levels 4 to 6 feet above normal tide, the hurricane center said.

After expending huge amounts of energy to destroy parts of Puerto Rico, the storm picked up more power when it moved back over water.

Maria is expected to intensify further, with the hurricane center predicting winds of 125 mph within 24 hours. The next areas that lie in the storm’s path are part of the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas — both areas that can expect to see tropical storm conditions later today, and hurricane conditions tonight.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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