By Daisy Luther
Last night in Puerto Rico, the world as residents knew it, ended.
Hurricane Maria caused so much devastation that there is no telling when electricity will be restored. There is no power on the entire island, casting 3.4 million people back in time by 100 years.
And even worse, 100 years ago, homes were designed to function without electricity. They were designed to have cooking methods that did not require electricity. The architecture was such that windows were placed in prime locations for cross-breezes. People had gardens and fruit trees and they knew how to raise livestock. This is like being thrown back in time with only useless things like laptops and window-unit air conditioners. Many people no longer have the necessary skills to function in this different world.
This is a classic SHTF moment because everything has changed. Finding the basics of survival is now completely different than it was 24 hours ago. Food, water, and shelter will be the primary concern of millions of people.
Surviving the Category 4 hurricane was the easy part. Surviving the aftermath is going to be the real challenge.
A couple of days ago, I wrote about this very issue, stating that when the power went off there, restoring it would be no easy matter. Of course, naysayers told me I was being overly doomy. There is so much cognitive dissonance that most folks simply cannot imagine a way of life that doesn’t include the rapid restoration of electricity, internet, and normalcy. Those people will be in big trouble should such a disaster ever strike mainland America, because they won’t be able to accept the changes and work within their new reality.
The catastrophic damage
Locals describe damage that is positively disastrous in nature.
It ripped apart homes, snapped power lines and turned roadways into torrents laden with debris as it cut a diagonal swath across the island.
The entire island of 3.4 million people was under a flash flood warning early on Thursday as the storm was forecast to dump 20 to 30 inches (50 to 76 cm) of rain on much of Puerto Rico through Friday, according to the NHC.
The island’s governor, Ricardo Rossello, said the only fatality immediately reported was a man struck by a piece of lumber hurled by high winds.
“It’s nothing short of a major disaster,” Rossello said in a CNN interview, adding it may take months for the island’s electricity to be completely restored. Earlier he imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew for the island. (source)
Puerto Rico dodged a bullet a couple of weeks ago when Hurricane Irma only caused some damage and took down power to a small percentage of people on the island. But Maria was a direct, destructive hit that can only be described as catastrophic.
Maria brought life-threatening flooding and mudslides, as well as a six to nine-foot storm surge to Puerto Rico… The full extent of the damage will not be known until authorities can do a flyover.
As well as bringing down power lines and ripping roofs off buildings, Maria also took weather radars offline…”This is going to be catastrophic for our island,” said Grisele Cruz, who was staying at a shelter in the southeastern city of Guayama. “We’re going to be without services for a long time.” (source)
Watch for updates over on Preppers Daily News as more information comes in.
Economic problems will make recovery extremely difficult.
This may well be the straw that broke the camel’s back for the island.
Puerto Rico has been suffering from financial woes for at least the last eleven years, causing the country to file for bankruptcy. The power grid was not well-maintained, spare parts were never ordered, and people in the field said ahead of time that the electrical system would not be able to withstand such a hit. Previously, I wrote:
It’s entirely possible that Hurricane Maria will put the island in the dark for quite some time to come, completely changing their way of life. 70,000 people are still without power from their bout with Irma, and much more damage to the utility system is expected. Gov. Rossello said:
“We will not have sustainable electric infrastructure in the near future. We will be bringing in crews from outside of Puerto Rico to attend to these measures.”(source)
Philipe Schoene Roura, the editor of a San Juan, Puerto Rico-based newspaper, Caribbean Business, wrote:
Prepa Executive Director Ricardo Ramos Rodríguez recently said the powerlines carrying electricity in the public corporation’s system are in such a deteriorated state that a strong storm could leave the island without power for weeks.
“To give you a number, if during Hurricane Georges 100 lines went down in 1998, today the same [kind of ] hurricane would bring down 1,000,” the official candidly told Caribbean Business when asked about the possibility of Prepa’s system effectively withstanding the onslaught of a similar storm.
“The lifespan of most of Prepa’s equipment has expired. There is a risk that in light of this dismal infrastructure situation, a large atmospheric event hitting Puerto Rico could wreak havoc because we are talking about a very vulnerable and fragile system at the moment,” Ramos added…
…Francisco Guerrero (a fictitious name to protect his identity), a Prepa field worker for 23 years, said it would take months for Prepa to bring up Puerto Rico’s power system should a hurricane like Harvey strike the island.
The lack of linemen and other technical personnel, as well as a lack of equipment—including replacement utility poles for powerlines and replacement parts—are the issues of greatest concern among public corporation employees, who say they risk their lives working with equipment in poor condition that provides them with little safety.
Guerrero said that today only 580 linemen remain out of the 1,300 who were part of the workforce in previous years—and that’s not counting the upcoming retirement of another 90 linemen. Likewise, he said there are only 300 electrical line testers to serve the entire island.
The source also said that much of Prepa’s equipment dates back to the 1950s—and the more “modern” equipment that is still functional dates from the 1990s; in other words, it’s from the past century.
“If a hurricane like this one [Harvey] hits us, the system is not going to come online, I’d say, in over six months. Right now, the warehouses don’t even have materials. I’m talking about utility poles and other stuff,” Guerrero explained.
“How can you say that you have equipment that dates back to the 1950s and you are not buying parts to repair them? When it’s time for maintenance work, you don’t have the part and you leave things as they are, but there is an entry in the log saying maintenance was done. And yes, it was done, but the most important thing was not done, which was to replace that part,” he added. (source)
Think for a moment about how quickly this has gone down.
The country was already bankrupt, but now, with a one-two punch of natural disasters, there’s little way for them to recover. Unless a person was already well-prepared, there is not much chance of them stocking up now. (source)
Because of their economic problems, recovery will be difficult, if not impossible. Because of their economic problems, preparations for the average person would also be hard to afford. And if everything you own was destroyed by the storm, then life as you know it has suddenly changed in the most dramatic way possible.
This is a real-life example of the SHTF that preppers talk about. Those who wish to be prepared should carefully follow what happens in Puerto Rico because much can be learned about human nature, the recovery process, skills we should learn, and preparations we should make.
It isn’t just Puerto Rico that was hard hit by Hurricane Maria
Two days ago, the island of Dominica was completely destroyed, with the roofs of 99% of the structures torn off by the Category 4 winds.
The small island was absolutely devastated. No respecter of persons, it even ripped the roof off of the home of the Prime Minister.
Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit posted on Facebook:
Initial reports are of widespread devastation. So far we have lost all what money can buy and replace. My greatest fear for the morning is that we will wake to news of serious physical injury and possible deaths as a result of likely landslides triggered by persistent rains.
So, far the winds have swept away the roofs of almost every person I have spoken to or otherwise made contact with. The roof to my own official residence was among the first to go and this apparently triggered an avalanche of torn away roofs in the city and the countryside.
Come tomorrow morning we will hit the road, as soon as the all clear is given, in search of the injured and those trapped in the rubble.
I am honestly not preoccupied with physical damage at this time, because it is devastating…indeed, mind boggling. My focus now is in rescuing the trapped and securing medical assistance for the injured.
We will need help, my friend, we will need help of all kinds.
It is too early to speak of the condition of the air and seaports, but I suspect both will be inoperable for a few days. That is why I am eager now to solicit the support of friendly nations and organisations with helicopter services, for I personally am eager to get up and get around the country to see and determine what’s needed. (source)
Dominica has a population of 72,000 people and is 289 square miles. (source)
Other parts of the Caribbean sustained significant damage as well.
Passing early Wednesday just west of St. Croix, home to about 55,000 people, Maria damaged an estimated 65% to 70% of the island’s buildings, said Holland Redfield, who served six terms in the U.S. Virgin Islands Senate…
Photos posted on Facebook from St. Croix by Virgin Islands’ local public television station, WTJX-TV, showed fallen utility and telephone poles, tangled wires, uprooted trees and storm shutters ripped from buildings.
In the French territory of Guadeloupe, many roads were blocked and 40% of the population was without power, France’s overseas territories ministry said. (source)
Today, Hurricane Maria has regained strength and is battering parts of the Dominican Republic, Turks, and Caicos. (source)
Meteorologists are unclear if, when, or where Maria will strick the United States coast, but mercifully, they’re fairly certain Florida is safe.
The current forecast does not show a direct hit on the East Coast, forecasters say, but such a path cannot be ruled out this far in advance……tracking models are good for three to five days, and anything beyond that is hard to forecast, according to CNN meteorologist Michael Guy.A five-day span shows Maria meandering off the US East Coast, but it’s unclear what happens afterward, he said.Whether the eye of the storm will hit the East Coast is a waiting game, he said. And even if it does not make landfall, the East Coast will be affected in some way.“Most likely it will bring a chance of rain to the Mid-Atlantic up through Massachusetts depending on how close it gets to the coast,” Guy said.“Regardless there will be high surf, dangerous rip currents and breezy, windy conditions up the East Coast of the US.”Those who live from North Carolina’s Outer Banks to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, should monitor the storm for any changes, he added. (source)