WNPR

In Puerto Rico, Repairing From One Storm While Preparing For The Next

Jul 9, 2018

Hurricane Maria blew away the backyard retiree clubhouse Angel Luis Cotto built as a place to relax. He misses it, and, as a new storm threatened to pass just to the south of Puerto Rico Monday, Cotto said he’d prefer she stay far away.

“When I see the news, I’m scared,” he said. “If something happened again like happened in Maria, we’re going to be in trouble over here in Puerto Rico..”

Cotto’s daughter, Carmen Cotto, said she’s not taking any chances. She’s got bags and barrels of water, three months of prescriptions for her parents, and food essentials like rice and coffee. But she also said that while people are preparing for the next storm, they still haven’t really dealt with the first.

“The emotional and the mental part -- still, no one, no one, I don’t think, in this island has started to deal with it,” she said.

A few minutes away, Tony Ginard was with his friends Francisco Cotto and Jovanny Perez who led an effort after Maria to bring electric service back to their neighborhood when no one else would. With a borrowed truck, a digger, and no electrical training, they got to work. They cleared streets, lifted poles, connected cables, and, in the end, they figure they got power back to roughly 500 houses. They even made their own “Montellano Electric” t-shirts. Ginard said it was a joke. Sort of.

“We need. to do something,” Ginard said. “We don’t blame the governor. No, no. We need to fix our problems.”

With Beryl approaching, Ginard said he and his neighbors are more prepared than they were. He’s got a bigger generator, a gas water heater, and the water cistern is ready. And the neighborhood is working on a community census, they’re organizing themselves, and they’ve got structure.

“That’s something we learned from Maria,” he said. “We are set up to start again.”

Meanwhile, even as the storm weakens, all attention will be on flooding.