Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico like a hammer made of wind on September 20th. According to Enrique Mendoza, people felt like the world was coming to an end. It didn’t. I arrived with my colleague on the 70th day after the hurricane. Today, the Maria crisis has evolved from a humanitarian health emergency into an economic crisis revolving around the restoration of power.
The Puerto Rican government reports 50% of the generating power is restored. However, the “last mile” of power line that gets power from a substation to homes is generally not intact. Of the dozens of people we asked, only two had power in their homes. Our waitress at the excellent “artisinal rum and pizza” restaurant next to our hotel in San Juan lived in on the 14th floor of a high-rise. We asked if she had power in her home — she did. When we asked here she got power and she said, “Yesterday.” Before that she was walking up 14 flights of stairs every day, with no refrigeration. She had two small flashlights for light at night. She was the second person we had met that had power — the first was Enrique who got power on the day 68.