Governor Ricardo Rossello asked President Donald Trump to declare a state of emergency in Puerto Rico as the Island prepared for Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 hurricane expected to reach Puerto Rico today. Late yesterday, President Trump agreed.
This means that the Department of Homeland Security Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will coordinate efforts to prepare for and respond to Irma. Federal funds will be available to provide protection and cleanup. The White House press release described the funds as 75% federal funds.
FEMA currently has 500 workers in Puerto Rico, as well as a search and rescue team and a medical team. The Puerto Rico State Agency for Emergency and Disaster Management will activate its emergency services center today at noon. The government has the ability to accommodate 63,229 people in 456 shelters. Puerto Rico is home to about 3.4 million U.S. citizens. The governor has asked the people of Puerto Rico to identify shelters — particularly those living in areas likely to flood.
Schools and colleges are closed today and ferry service has been suspended. Medical services are also limited. Electrical power is expected to be shut down for the foreseeable future, and there are concerns about phone service as well. The National Weather Service predicts “extreme” danger and warns that roads are likely to become impassible and structurally sound buildings are likely to be damaged. Rock and mudslides are also predicted.
Irma is expected to be the strongest storm ever recorded in the Caribbean, with winds up to 185 miles an hour. The water in the Caribbean is warmer than usual, and this extra heat provides fuel for the hurricane — and possibly for Hurricane Jose, lining up behind Irma. Weather experts are reminded of Hurricane San Felipe, the only previously recorded Category 5 hurricane, which struck Puerto Rico in 1928.
Brooklyn Assemblyman Felix Ortiz is working with constituents to prepare care packages to send to Puerto Rico.The Island has been in a financial crisis for years, and water and electricity both have been near crisis point this year. Federal funds and FEMA support may make the difference in Puerto Rico’s survival of Hurrican Irma.