Dam it! Mother Nature is continuing her relentless rampage of devastation across the southern end of North America. Hurricane Maria has caused damage to flood regulation devices on the Guajataca Dam, endangering over 70,000 people. The National Weather Service said the dam is in imminent danger of failing and Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló sternly warned residents on a Friday the 22nd news conference that they needed to evacuate immediately.
Government spokesman Carlos Bermudez said that officials were without communication with 40 of its 78 municipalities still, two days after Category 4 Hurricane Maria stormed through. Bermudez also mentioned that out of the 1.6k cellphone towers the PR islands had, 1.4k had been toppled and upwards of 85% of any of the power cables, be them above-ground or subterranean, were also down.
Puerto Rican officials said that with the vast majority of it's communication and electrical grid down, it's impossible for them to adequately assess the situation and they fear that the effects of Maria may be worse than they feared.
The dam that is threatening so many lives has had a crack noticed by an engineer and may be the first sign of total structural damage.
FEMA is implementing a plan to get around 250 satellite phones distributed to mayors around the island so that they can be back in contact.
If there is good news in all of this, it's that their main port in the southeastern town of Yabucoa which receives most of the area's fuel only got hit with minor damage. The fuel needs of the island will be met at 80% capacity, which is far better than the electrical, communications and water needs have been affected.
Gas stations, the small number that were open, are reported to have had lines 20-50+ cars deep, ATM machines are reported to have over 100 people standing in line to take money out, and best believe that the people near the end of the line were praying that there would be money left.
The State of New York is sending roughly 250 National Guardsmen and state troopers to assist in the area. NY Governor Andrew Cuomo brought a large shipment of bottled waters amd military MRE's (meals ready to eat) already. New York has the largest population of Puerto Ricans in the mainland.
Unfortunately the danger is not over. With the large dam facing the possibility to burst, and without communication with the hardest hit areas of the island, there is no way to most efficiently coordinate relief efforts at the moment.
While the enormity of this situation begins to resonate with all of those affected, the resilience of the Puerto Rican people is shining through as volunteer search and rescue crews are rummaging their way through the mess in hopes to save lives.
Here's to hoping America can send relief and help them rebuild.
Picture credit: NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens