One week after Hurricane Maria pummeled Puerto Rico, the U.S. Defense Department said 80 percent of the island’s electricity lines are damaged and nearly half its residents are without drinking water.
Members of Connecticut’s Puerto Rican community are preparing to welcome family members to the state who are fleeing the ongoing crisis.
Adrian Rodriguez, 26, grew up in a small, resort community in Puerto Rico.
“I was born and raised in a town called Humacao, which is on the southeastern part of the island -- right in the area where the hurricane eye came through,” he said. He came to Connecticut for college and is now a clinical social worker in New Haven.
With cell towers still down, Rodriguez has not yet been able to speak directly with his parents, but a brother who works in marketing in San Juan was able to drive to Humacao to be sure the family was ok. That part of the island was hard hit and it could be weeks before the lights are back and there’s running water.
“A lot of people who have families in the mainland of the United States are going to have no choice but to leave,” he said. “I spoke to my brother and he said, ‘Hey Adrian I don’t know what is going to happen to my job now, so I might have no choice but to come to the mainland and work there for awhile.’ Luckily I was able to get a flight reservation for my parents to fly up to Connecticut.”
The first reservation he bought, however, was cancelled and he’s waiting to hear when he can book another flight. Rodriguez said he hopes his family can stay in Connecticut until things return to some level of normalcy.
But he admitted he’s worried.
"I mean a lot of uncertainty," he said. "This is 3.1 or 2 million Americans that are without power, without running water."
An expected exodus of Puerto Ricans to the mainland comes as the island’s economic crisis has already driven out tens of thousands of people in the past few years looking for work.
This story is part of “The Island Next Door,” WNPR’s reporting project about Puerto Rico and Connecticut after Hurricane Maria.