The Miami Herald reported that parts of the island could be without power for up to four to six months.
On Thursday, the US commonwealth with a population of over 3.4 million began to dig out out after the monster Category 5 storm lashed its shores. About 70% of homes and businesses were without power, and nearly 18% were without water.
Nearly 300,000 people were already without power and 4,000 were without water by Wednesday afternoon before the worst of the storm hit, The New York Times reported.
About 6,300 people and 500 pets are taking refuge in shelters after evacuating their homes, according to Reuters.
- REUTERS/Alvin Baez
Ricardo Ramos, director of the Puerto Rico’s sole power company, PREPA, told local radio station NotiUno on Tuesday that some residents could have their power restored in as soon as a week, while for others it could take months.
Part of the problem is the island’s debt crisis and crumbling infrastructure. PREPA, a government-owned utility, defaulted on nearly $9 billion in debt in July, NPR reported.
“The dangerousness of this event is like nothing we’ve ever seen,” Rossello said. “A lot of infrastructure won’t be able to withstand this kind of force.”
He urged residents in the path of the storm to evacuate, and President Donald Trump declared a federal emergency in Puerto Rico to free up federal resources.
‘We got lucky’
— Philippe Papin (@pppapin) September 6, 2017
Irma passed just north of Puerto Rico Wednesday night, and the National Hurricane Center put the commonwealth under a hurricane warning. By Thursday afternoon, the warnings and watches had expired.
Rainfall totals were forecasted to reach 4 to 10 inches, with isolated totals up to 14 inches. The island could expect another 2 to 4 inches between Thursday and Saturday, with some areas seeing up to 6 inches.
The storm surge – the quick rise in water caused by a hurricane’s strong winds – reached 4 to 6 feet above ground on the northern coast, and 2 to 4 feet on the southern coast. The NHC said water levels would begin subsiding on Thursday.
“It was really not as bad as we had feared,” Omar Alvarez, 53, a real state appraiser, told Reuters near a 60-foot tree that toppled power lines in San Juan. “We had very high winds but we got lucky.”
Hurricane Irma’s maximum sustained winds were still 175 mph on Thursday afternoon, and the NHC didn’t expect them to slow down for days as the storm moved north.