Hurricane Fiona in Puerto Rico
Hurricane Fiona landed on the southwestern corner of Puerto Rico at 3:20 p.m. EDT Sunday, September 18, as a category 1 storm with 85 mph winds. Though Fiona arrived as “only” a Cat 1, the impacts from Fiona’s rains have been considered “catastrophic.” According to data from the National Hurricane Center, southern Puerto Rico was hit with 12 to 20 inches. Some areas received nearly 3 feet of rain during the storm. The data shows that residents in Northern Puerto Rico saw four to 12 inches of rainfall, with some areas getting a maximum of 20 inches. In the days following the storm, communities still got several inches of rain and have dealt with significant flooding. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra on Wednesday declared a Public Health Emergency on the Island because of the impact of the flooding from Fiona. https://www.npr.org/2022/09/23/1124345084/impact-hurricane-fiona-puerto-rico
The Reverend Hilda Robles, General Pastor of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Puerto Rico, told us at the end of last week about how the pastors of the churches were facing problems in reaching their congregations. Landslides and floods complicated the access to temples that week. “It is incredible how some of our churches in places like Coamo and Toa Baja had to help people in urbanizations under water. Submerged cars could be seen in the streets due to the floods. “Some families just lost everything because of the hurricane,” she said. Similarly, Reverend Edward Rivera, Pastor General of the United Evangelical Church of Puerto Rico (“Iglesia Evangélica Unida de Puerto Rico“), told us how many communities in the southwest of the Island are cut off from communication due to the rain. That adds to the existing problem on the Island, when many of the repairs to homes and facilities due to the damage caused by Hurricane Maria, which hit the Island five years ago, are still pending.
One of the most severe damages occurred to the electric power system on the Island. About 490,000 customers in Puerto Rico were without electricity, according to PowerOutage.Us. This website aggregates data from utilities across the United States. That’s down from the 1.5 million electrical customers without power on Saturday, about a week after Hurricane Fiona, then a Category 1 storm, struck. As restoring power to customers after a hurricane can be a complicated effort that could require time, Puerto Rico is particularly troubled with an old and fragile grid. Also, the Government of Puerto Rico sold the electric service’s distribution, maintenance, and customer support to Luma Energy, a U.S. Canadian private corporation. According to most public opinion and customer testimonies, that company has proven to be expensive, ineffective, and irresponsible with the duties of keeping the electric power serving the people on the Island. In that sense, hurricane Fiona drew parallels to Hurricane Maria, a near-category 5 storm that slammed Puerto Rico in 2017. That storm inflicted more damage on the Island than any other disaster in recent history. Eighty percent of the Island’s electrical system was damaged, leaving Puerto Ricans without power for months. The last house was not reconnected to the system until nearly a year later. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/27/us/hurricane-fiona-puerto-rico-blackouts.html
As I did five months ago, during an event where the Island suffered from a general electric outage, I communicated with the leaders of the twelve communities that are part of AMANESER 2025, one of Global Ministries’ Partners on the Island. Again, I wanted to know how they were dealing with the loss of power on the Island. I knew that, with a few exceptions, all of the houses that are part of the solar power program sponsored by AMANESER were working and in good shape. They uninstalled the solar panels while Fiona was passing through the Island and reinstalled them after the winds and rain were mostly done. People from those communities were creating, assembling, maintaining, and protecting their equipment. As Juan Rosario, AMANESER 2025’s Executive Director, shared in the organization’s chat: “If the community cannot do it, it is not done. In our houses, no company came to set up anything. That is the true Energy Revolution. Long live the titans of Veguita Zama, Las Vegas, Beatriz, Ponce, Villa Nevarez, Bayamón, Yabucoa, Humacao, Aguada, Caimito, and the other communities that build with patience, humility, and much love, a self-managed model.” There is hope amid despair. The people of Puerto Rico will rise, once more, out of this awful situation.
We will continue sharing more information as it could come available. You can make a gift towards the recovery work by following the links:
- One Great Hour of Sharing Response (UCC)
- Week of Compassion Response (Disciples of Christ)
- Global Ministries Partners Response
If you want to contribute specifically to the efforts made by AMANESER 2025, organizing communities and providing affordable solar energy on the Island, send your donation to Global Ministries here (https://www.globalministries.org/donation_page/). Please, name your donation “for the work of AMANESER 2025”.