Hurricane Fiona takes Puerto Rico by storm

Jennifer Serrano Ramirez, Multimedia Producer

Five years after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico is now facing the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona which hit the island on Sept. 18.  

Illustration by Silvia Catarino / The Runner.

After already experiencing Hurricane Maria, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake, and the COVID pandemic, many worry about how Puerto Rico will rebuild. On Oct. 3, President Biden promised to help.  

In his speech announced in the White House Briefing Room ,he described his personal connections he has to the Puerto Rican community. He grew up in Delaware with a large Puerto Rican population and has since felt close to them. President Biden then explained an expedited major disaster declaration that he approved for the island.  

This declaration promises that the federal government will cover any costs needed to clear debris and search, rescue, and shelter people. The U.S. will give up to $37,900 per person for home repairs and $37,900 for lost property. He also assured the island that this reconstruction will not only rebuild the community but also prevent any more damage from future hurricanes.

“Thanks, everybody. We’re going to get this done. We really are,” Biden Said. 

Greg Allen, National Public Radio’s Miami correspondent, wrote about his time in Puerto Rico just a week after Hurricane Fiona. He mentioned that Hurricane Fiona, luckily, was not as bad as Hurricane Maria. In a phone interview with The Runner on Oct. 8, Allen described his trip to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Fiona. 

“When it happens again, you flashback,” Allen said.  

According to Allen, the island remembered that they have faced worse, so they were more hopeful this time around. They knew that if they got past Hurricane Maria, they would be able to make it past this.  

Allen said, “There’s a little bit of sadness and despair, but it’s not like others, so they know there will ultimately be help coming.” 

Allen has covered many natural disasters before such as Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Maria, and the large oil spill that occurred in the Gulf Coast. He’s done many interviews, so his coverage on Hurricane Fiona was not his first. From his experience, he mentioned that the toughest outcome of Hurricane Fiona was the way it impacted smaller towns, which are mostly populated with elders.  

“Small towns don’t have a lot of economic opportunities for people. When it comes to clean-up, it’s up to 80- to 90-year-olds,” said Allen.  

Large cities in Puerto Rico are getting past this hurricane quite well, but the more rural areas are having trouble. Allen said he spreads awareness for communities in need by writing stories like “Fiona’s floods devastated their homes. These residents are ready to start over,” a story about residents in Salinas, Puerto Rico. 

“You do whatever you can to represent them fairly and help them in any way. They’re so glad you’re being there and telling their story,” said Allen. 

Eighty three year-old Ramon Morales Perez lives in Puerto Rico and spoke about his family who experienced the hurricane. He said, in a phone interview Oct. 4, that it was something unexpected.  

“Lo que pasa es que este huracán decían que hiba entrar al espacio como una onda nomás de viento, pero despues se desarrollo y se hizo un circulo grande, entiendes, se hizo algo grande,” said Morales Perez. Puerto Ricans believed the hurricane was only going to be gusts of wind, but then it turned into something bigger, he had said. 

Luckily, he and his family were safe, but others were not as lucky.  He described that some neighborhoods became so flooded that they looked like oceans: 

“Se enduraron barriadas completas, parecía mar, las casas llenas de agua,” said Morales Perez. 

Despite the hurricane being extremely damaging for many people, Morales Perez has a positive attitude and is hopeful that President Biden will keep his promise of helping rebuild the island. 

Morales Perez explained how he has always said that people need to be prepared, and right now is also the time when people who want to help, should help: 

“Yo siempre he dicho que tienen que estar preparados y también ahorita es tiempo de que el que quiera ayudar a Puerto Rico puede ayudar,” said Morales Perez. 

Organization such as Project Hope, Hispanic Federation, Direct Relief, and GlobalGiving are currently accepting donations to help the island of Puerto Rico.