I think it was around 3pm when things settled down in earnest after 9 long hours. Power had gone out the night before at 11pm. We never experienced the calm that an eye provides so we surmised we must have been on the edge of it. Although by all previous accounts we were in direct line with the path. By 4:30 everyone, including ourselves, had swept and mopped the few inches of water from our apartments outside.
A quick survey of the complex revealed most of the palm trees were uprooted, beheaded or snapped in half but most of the cars unscathed. A walk around the perimeter confirmed no one was seriously injured or needed assistance. Other than a half dozen units with blown out entrances (due to vacancy) damage was minimal. We were/are lucky.
Our next course of action was checking in on family members in Arecibo. Driving out of the complex, we were in for a sobering look at the devastation Maria had left. Scraggly barren trees set against a blank grey sky, Puerto Rico’s lush world of color was now in muted tones of destruction. With every block we got quieter, the only thought going through our minds was how would PR ever recover from this? We are sure the east coast thru San Juan received the brunt of Maria, how on earth are they doing? Who is going to help them? When?
In less than a mile we came upon our first impasse, a light pole across the road, we make a u-turn. Not two blocks from there, low hanging intertwined cables and unpredictable flooding blocks our path. Time to turn back, the return somehow seemed even more dismal.
We made rounds again with the neighbors, some we knew, some we had never met before. An elderly man was trying (and succeeding according to bystanders) to catch and kill the remaining pigeons with his bare hands. Not two hours ago we were anxiously listening to the doors rattle so hard you’d think they’d blow off their hinges and now this. Were also told by neighbors Marshall law is in effect, no traveling between 6pm-6am.
Did I mention there hasn’t been any sleeping? Either you are soaked in sweat or the generators are roaring at deafening decibels or your mind is whirring. Usually it’s a combo. You can’t eat because your brain is saying “food isn’t really that important, I think we should be paying attention to this and only this”.
Thursday morning I felt overwhelmingly bereft for a brief time. Looking out the window you can’t help but feel like a tiny desolate forgotten planet not knowing what’s happening. That quickly dissipated after our next ride out.
We grabbed some food and jumped into the car first thing the next morning. This time we made it to Arecibo but all roads leading to our families neighborhood were even more impassable than any we have seen. We had to turn back again. Like the day before, people were out in their rain gear attempting to chip away at the madness around them, not a dour face in sight. In fact, people were laughing, helping their neighbors, chasing their siblings around on the front lawn and generally getting the world moving again.
We learned from emergency broadcasts that Maria MIGHT have zig zagged through PR and exited around Aguadilla but no one really knows. I’m writing this Thursday night, still no contact with any family, worried about how worried they are. A man from Bayamon came on this evening saying there is cell service at Plaza Rio Hondo in Bayamon, we are headed out there at first light to make calls to family. If you are reading this, we have succeeded. We also learned that Carolina mall is gone, Plaza las Americas is flooded and worst of all, Levittown is completely under water, rescues were underway last we heard.
According to reports, there are also ships waiting out the remnants of the storm to arrive with food, water and generators for the entire island. Hopefully they are well on their way by now if not here. Planes with various aids should be arriving before them.
In addition, the Governor has stated “all bets are off” in regards to the promesa board. We’ll see. This is going to be one of the most pivotal moments in Puerto Rico history, it promises to be interesting either way. We’ll see once and for all what can truly be accomplished, no more band aids or short term remedies will suffice.