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Hurricane Maria

Hurricane Maria was the rainiest storm known to have hit Puerto Rico, and climate change is partly to blame, according to a new study.

The worst rain fell in the mountainous central part of Puerto Rico, from the northwest to the southeast. That part of the island is rainy under normal conditions. In an average year, it gets more than 150 inches of rain.

When Maria hit in 2017, it dropped nearly a quarter of that annual rainfall in just one day.

César Díaz felt lucky that only a couple of leaks had sprung in his ceiling, even though Hurricane Maria tore the zinc panels off much of his roof. His real troubles began about a year after the storm, when a crew hired by Puerto Rico's housing department showed up to make the repairs.

"They weren't very professional," Díaz said. "They didn't wear gloves, and they asked if I had an extra piece of wood."

Within days, there were new leaks. Not only in the living room but in the bedroom, over his daughter's crib.

Puerto Rico National Guard by Sgt. Jose Ahiram Diaz-Ramos

Over a year ago, Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico.

Thursday evening, the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee is hosting a panel discussion, "Puerto Rico: A Year After Maria," which will talk about how the island and its residents are still recovering from the storm.

Officials in Puerto Rico have been saying for months that they are prepared should another hurricane strike their island, even one as big as Hurricane Maria, which made landfall with devastating fury last fall.

But on Tuesday afternoon, an attorney for Puerto Rico's government admitted in a San Juan courtroom that, in fact, the island's emergency management agency does not yet have a document outlining a hurricane-specific response plan.

Boyzell Hosey / Tampa Bay Times

Story Days in Tampa Bay recently hosted its fifth annual festival in St. Petersburg. This week on Florida Matters we hear excerpts from a performance  that reflects on Hurricanes Irma and Maria a year after the storms.

East Park / Wikimedia Commons

The University of Central Florida is extending its offer of in-state tuition to students who came to the school from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands after Hurricane Maria.

Abandoned Animals Strain System In Puerto Rico

Sep 22, 2018
Kaitlin Hall/WUFT

As the sun rises above San Juan’s Peninsula de Cantera neighborhood, stray pigs roam the streets looking for scraps of food.

Gisselle Garcia/WUFT

For nearly seven decades, generation after generation has operated Carlos Bonnet-Vargas’ bookstand on the colorful streets of Old San Juan.

With painted green shelves, messy piles of books and magazines and Puerto Rican flags flying high, the kiosk has attracted enough customers to keep each owner afloat.

But after Hurricane Maria, Bonnet-Vargas is struggling to make ends meet.

Puerto Rico National Guard

It’s been a year since Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico. Recovery continues on the devastated island, but transitions are also happening here in Florida, where many residents evacuated and some have chosen to stay.

Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico a year ago this month, and on WUSF's Florida Matters we're hearing the stories of people who fled to the Tampa area when they had to evacuate. On today's podcast, a conversation with WUSF reporter Roberto Roldan, who interviewed some of the hurricane evacuees.

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Roberto Roldan

Many Puerto Rican’s lost everything when Hurricane Maria made landfall on Sept. 20, 2017. Tens of thousands of people made the decision to take what belongings they had left and travel to the mainland. Many have started new lives in Central and South Florida. These new Floridians already have had significant influence on political races, the public school system and affordable housing.

This week on Florida Matters, we'll hear the stories of two people who chose to make the Tampa Bay area their new home:

Like many Puerto Ricans who fled to the mainland after Hurricane Maria, Jose Santiago has been scrambling to find a place to live. The federal vouchers that pay for his hotel room near the Orlando airport expire at checkout time Friday.

Roberto Roldan / WUSF Public Media

A federal judge Friday required elections officials in 32 counties to provide Spanish-language sample ballots for the November general election --- but said there wasn’t enough time to order more far-reaching steps to help Puerto Ricans eligible to vote in Florida.

Wikimedia Commons

The federal government is reimbursing Florida schools that took in thousands of Puerto Rican children displaced by Hurricane Maria.

Puerto Rico's governor raised the U.S. territory's official death toll from Hurricane Maria from 64 to 2,975 on Tuesday after an independent study found that the number of people who succumbed in the desperate, sweltering aftermath had been severely undercounted.

Drew McKissick / Flickr

Advocates for Puerto Ricans who moved to Florida after they were displaced by Hurricane Maria have filed a federal lawsuit demanding 32 counties in the state provide voting materials in Spanish ahead of the November election. 


Puerto Rico's sole provider of electricity for 1.5 million residents says power has been returned to all homes that lost electricity from Hurricane Maria last September.

Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority identified a family near the mountainous, rural barrios of Real and Anón, in Ponce, a city and municipality in the island's south, as their final customers to receive returned power. PREPA tweeted their image.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency says it didn't handle housing vouchers for displaced residents of Puerto Rico any differently from those of displaced Texas and Florida residents after last year's hurricanes.

In Weary Post-Storm Puerto Rico, Medicaid Cutbacks Bode New Ills

Aug 6, 2018

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Blue tarps still dot rooftops, homes lack electricity needed to refrigerate medicines, and clinics chip away at debts incurred from running generators. Yet despite the residual effects from last year’s devastating hurricanes, Puerto Rico is moving ahead with major cuts to its health care safety net that will affect more than a million of its poorest residents.

Judge Extends FEMA Maria Emergency Aid And Sets A Hearing

Jul 23, 2018

A judge has again ordered an extension of FEMA’s temporary shelter program for displaced Puerto Ricans. The judge is giving families until midnight August 6 to stay in hotels. That means checkout would be on August 7.

Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands were hit by power outages and widespread flooding Monday as remnants of the Atlantic season's first hurricane provided an initial test of how far they have recovered from last year's devastating storms.

Roberto Roldan / WUSF Public Media

When Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico last September, Julio Ildefonso and his mother watched as their wooden home in Bayamón was blown away.

The island of Vieques, Puerto Rico, is an isolated place known both for its remote beaches and the decades during which the U.S. Navy used those beaches for bombing runs and training exercises.

Vieques has long been a hard place to stay for locals, but a good place for visitors. Now, nine months after Hurricane Maria, that dynamic is even more at play.

Spc. Samuel Keenan / FEMA

Displaced Puerto Rican families who were preparing to leave their hotels and motels on Thursday will get to stay a bit longer.

A judge has stopped FEMA from ending its housing assistance program for Puerto Rican families displaced by hurricane Maria. 

YUISA RIOS / FEMA

The federal program that has provided hotel vouchers to Puerto Rican families displaced by Hurricane Maria will end on Saturday, and advocates are worried some Tampa Bay families will be left with nowhere to go.

Updated at 9:35 a.m.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has visited Puerto Rico six times since the island was ravaged by Hurricane Maria last year. He's brought aid, advice, and on one trip, even a delegation of utility providers to consult on how best to restore the island's tattered power grid.

A big discrepancy between Puerto Rico’s official death toll from Hurricane Maria and lives lost according to Harvard researchers has prompted U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida) and other Democrats to call for new standards in counting storm deaths.

In the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the federal government signed a multimillion-dollar deal with Carnival Corporation to help house federal aid workers and first responders on the company's Fascination cruise ship in the United States Virgin Islands.

Updated 12:43 p.m. ET

Perhaps 5,000 people died in Puerto Rico in 2017 for reasons related to September's Hurricane Maria, according to a study that dismisses the official death toll of 64 as "a substantial underestimate."

A research team led by scientists at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health didn't simply attempt to count dead bodies in the wake of the powerful storm. Instead, they surveyed randomly chosen households and asked the occupants about their experiences.

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