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Puerto Rico

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

As Puerto Ricans emerge from the devastation of Hurricane Maria, family members back in the U.S. are desperately trying to get in touch. In Connecticut, political leaders are focused on both how to rebuild, and how to find their loved ones.

Carmen Ocasio has a lot of family on Puerto Rico. She said Wednesday that she is not watching television or going on social media. She can't handle it. 

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

As Hurricane Maria bore down on Puerto Rico Wednesday, several nonprofits met in Hartford to plan relief efforts.

Maria Sanchez-Cruz

Two weeks after Irma pounded the Caribbean, Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico on Wednesday.

Updated at 5:30 a.m. ET Wednesday

Even though Maria has weakened to a Category 4 storm, it remains a dangerous hurricane. Maria's maximum sustained winds are near 155 mph. The National Hurricane Center says the storm should keep that intensity until it makes landfall. Puerto Rico has long been spared from a direct hit by a hurricane.

Updated at 2:20 a.m. ET Wednesday

Updated at 5:30 a.m. ET

The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Maria is an extremely dangerous storm. It was a Category 5 storm when it hit the island of Dominica. Later it was downgraded to a Category 4 hurricane. But a short time ago, forecasters says Maria had regained the strength of a Category 5 hurricane.

Updated at 3:15 a.m. ET Tuesday

Updated at 4:20 p.m. ET

A string of tiny Caribbean islands have been left stunned and devastated by the destructive force of Hurricane Irma, one of the strongest storms ever to hit the region. Some islands appear to have been spared, but others suffered loss of life and damage on a near-apocalyptic scale.

Antigua and Barbuda

Updated at 5:00 a.m. ET Friday

The National Hurricane Center says Irma is now a Category 4 storm. It has maximum sustained winds of 155 mph.

Updated at 11 p.m. ET

Hurricane Irma continued its northwestward sweep Thursday evening, losing little steam as it skirted the Dominican Republic and Haiti and bearing the full force of its 165-mph winds down upon the southeastern Bahamas and away from the Turks and Caicos islands. Forecasters upgraded their alert for South Florida to a warning.

National Hurricane Center

Hurricane Irma is now a powerful Category 5 storm, and it’s headed for the island of Puerto Rico -- a literal and emotional home for hundreds of thousands of Connecticut residents. And on Hartford’s Park Street -- the lifeblood of many local Latino businesses -- people are paying close attention. 

Updated at 2:15 a.m. ET Wednesday:

The most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history made its first landfall in Northeast Caribbean islands. The eye passed over Barbuda around 1:47 a.m, according to the National Weather Service.

Updated at 11:10 p.m. ET

"Hurricane Irma has intensified into an extremely dangerous Category 5 hurricane," the National Hurricane Center says, citing the latest data from NOAA and Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft.

Updated at 11:20 p.m. ET

The governors of Florida and Puerto Rico have declared pre-emptive states of emergency ahead of Hurricane Irma, a powerful Category 4 storm churning through the Caribbean on a westward track. The U.S. Virgin Islands also declared a state of emergency.

Forecasters say the dangerous storm also looks increasingly likely to hit the U.S. East Coast, either in South Florida or the Carolinas.

"We have established protocols for the safety of all," Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello said, urging islanders to take precautions.

Updated at 5:52 p.m.

Puerto Ricans overwhelmingly voted for U.S. statehood for their island in a nonbinding referendum on Sunday.

The Associated Press reports that only partial results are in but a low turnout and boycott by several opposition parties calls into question the validity of the non-binding vote.

Says the AP:

One of President Obama's last acts in office was to grant clemency to dozens of people, including Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar López Rivera.

On Wednesday, López Rivera was released from house arrest in Puerto Rico. The 74-year-old had been in custody for seditious conspiracy since 1981.

The clemency decision was controversial. "To his supporters, he is a freedom fighter for the cause of Puerto Rican independence. To others, he's a terrorist," NPR's Kelly McEvers noted at the time.

Steven Laschever / Courtesy 32BJ

It's almost year since a financial oversight board was set up to resolve the debt crisis on the island of Puerto Rico. The Puerto Rican government owes about $9 billion, and as the anniversary approaches, it looks likely that changes could be made to the way that debt is restructured. 

On Puerto Rico's southwestern corner, the sleepy seaside town of Guanica is where, nearly 120 years ago, the U.S. relationship with the island began during the Spanish-American War. The town's museum director, Francisco Rodriguez, takes visitors to the town's waterfront where the invasion began. In Spanish he says, "This is Guanica Bay, where the American troops commanded by General Nelson Miles landed on July 25, 1898." At the site, a stone marker engraved by the 3rd Battalion of the U.S. Army commemorates the invasion.

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