Advertisement
  1. Hurricane

Puerto Ricans who fled to Florida from storm face new storm

Tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans moved to Florida after Hurricane Maria to escape. Now, they’re facing a potentially destructive storm in the very place where they sought refuge.
FILE - In this Sept. 10, 2018, file photo, Jose Santiago, a Puerto Rican evacuee after Hurricane Maria, stands in a temporary home in Orlando. Like Santiago, tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans moved to Florida after Hurricane Maria to escape the devastation of the storm. Now, they’re facing a potentially destructive storm in the very place they sought refuge. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File) [JOHN RAOUX | AP]
Published Aug. 30
Updated Aug. 30

Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. — Jose Santiago was worried about his two adult daughters as Hurricane Dorian threatened Puerto Rico midweek.

But when the island dodged a direct hit from the storm, his daughters became increasingly concerned about the direction of the hurricane — straight for Florida where Santiago had moved after Hurricane Maria ravaged the island in September 2017.

"One of them told me, 'Daddy, this isn't going to hit Puerto Rico directly, but now I'm worried about you,'" said Santiago, who drives cars for an auction house in Orlando.

Like Santiago, tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans moved to Florida after Hurricane Maria to escape the devastation of the Category 4 storm. Now, they're facing a potentially destructive storm in the very place where they sought refuge.

RELATED: Hurricane Dorian will be ‘extremely dangerous’ hurricane by Friday, reach Category 4 status as it hits Florida

Living through Hurricane Maria taught Santiago the importance of preparing for a storm, and he has purchased a generator, canned food and water. He's betting Dorian won't be as bad.

"Maria was like almost 200 miles per hour (322 kph). It was scary with the noise and stuff, and the wind," said Santiago, who exaggerated a bit — maximum sustained winds were 155 mph (249 kph) by the time the storm reached Puerto Rico. "I don't think Dorian is going to be a third of what Maria was."

Hurricane Maria was a Category 4 storm by the time it hit Puerto Rico, leaving a death toll of around 3,000. Many Puerto Ricans who had been recovering from Hurricane Irma two weeks earlier, were left with a power grid that was essentially destroyed and a lack of tap water and cellphone service.

What had been a steady flow of residents leaving the island because of economic hardship became a gush after the storm. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates around 130,000 Puerto Ricans moved away between July 2017 and July 2018.

The Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Florida estimated that as many as 50,000 of them settled in Florida after Hurricane Maria. Florida now has more than 1.1 million Puerto Ricans, and has surpassed New York as the state with the largest number of Puerto Ricans living on the mainland.

During Hurricane Dorian's brush with Puerto Rico on Wednesday, Idalis Fernandez worried about her cousins and aunts on the island, who lost power but they were otherwise fine. Like Santiago's daughters, they were more concerned about her living in Florida.

"They've already called me twice, asking me, 'What are you going to do?'" said Fernandez, who moved to Orlando after Hurricane Maria and now works as a server.

By Wednesday evening, Fernandez had already purchased her food supplies and packed everything into the fridge. She had removed chairs from the porch of her apartment and secured other items.

Her 12-year-old son, Alexander, was worried they would be without power for months, like they were in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria

“I tell him he needs to be calm because I’m here and we have everything here,” Fernandez said. “I tell him, ‘Just wait and pray.’”

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Hurricane Dorian left homes in ruin in the Bahamas. FERNANDO LLANO  |  AP
    The season’s strongest storm, Hurricane Dorian, had Florida in sight but turned north before making landfall. The storm decimated the Bahamas.
  2. The latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center shows the storm moving toward the northeast out to sea. National Hurricane Center
    An early morning advisory shows the storm turning toward the northeast.
  3. Tropical storm Sebastien has developed in the Atlantic and now has an 80 percent chance of turning into a tropical cyclone. [National Hurricane Center] National Hurricane Center
    Forecasters with the National Weather Service do not expect the storm to threaten land.
  4. Forecasters with the National Weather Service estimate that the system has a 50-percent chance of developing into a tropical or sub-tropical depression during the next 48 hours. National Weather Service
    Forecasters with the National Weather Service expect the system to develop into a depression by mid-week.
  5. Mos Antenor, 42, drives a bulldozer while clearing the road after Hurricane Dorian Mclean's Town, Grand Bahama, Bahamas on Sept. 13. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa) RAMON ESPINOSA  |  AP
    The damage estimate comes from a new report by the Inter-American Development Bank.
  6. The projected path of Tropical Storm Olga National Hurricane Center
    The storm is expected to merge with a cold front and become post-tropical before impacting Louisiana late tonight.
  7. The low-pressure system in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico has a 60-percent chance of development over the next two to five days. National Hurricane Center
    Most models don’t project the system to become anything stronger than a tropical depression. And a short-lived one, at that.
  8. The projected path of Nestor National Hurricane Center
    Nestor is expected to dump two to four inches of rain in Tampa Bay, along with the threat of tornadoes.
  9. The projected path for Tropical Storm Nestor, according to the National Hurricane Center. National Hurricane Center
    Tampa Bay should expect wind and rain tonight into Saturday morning, according to the National Weather Service
  10. The sun sets over a slab which once served as a foundation for a home on Mexico Beach in May. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Area leaders fear lower population numbers will lead to reduced federal funding and political representation.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement