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Puerto Rican with Missouri connection describes Fiona’s takedown of power grid

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COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

Hurricane Fiona has been hammering Puerto Rico for days, cutting power off on the island.

Having to rely on diesel generators, residents and business owners have been dealing with constant rain since Friday. With wind reaching more than 70 mph, residents don’t even consider this the worst storm they have been through.

A family member of an ABC 17 News employee who lives in Puerto Rico offered insight into what’s happening on the island amid the storm.

“Yesterday during the day was pouring rain,” Claire Ruiz said Monday. “Now it’s just constant showers but it has been raining for 72 hours so now it’s only showers, but it’s still raining.”

Ruiz, the finance director at IHP Hospitality, a family company, is managing the hurricane conditions while trying to keep numerous hotels running on the western end of the island. With the lack of power, diesel-fueled generators provide power to homes and businesses. With the constant rain comes flooding, making it hard to transport fuel throughout the island. Ruiz said that Sunday there was no power on the island.

“There’s no way to cross from one town to another,” Ruiz said. “I just confirmed that diesel can be delivered to one of our other hotels. That’s what we’re working on right now, how to get from one place to another with the flooded roads.”

Ruiz said the local government has a first responder team who will travel to areas that need aid immediately. However, with the rain not stopping, she says she hasn’t seen much of anything.

“I’m guessing since the rain hasn’t stopped, I haven’t seen a lot of effort yet. They don’t know at the time exactly what’s going on.”

Puerto Rico learned lessons for future storms after Hurricane Maria in 2017, which left the island powerless for months. The staff was trained on how to do everything manually. This cuts out the need to rely on technology.

Along with the training, the four hotels have a backup internet provider. The island was left without communication during Maria, which caused serious complications in recovery efforts. Since then, storm protocol was taken much more seriously and valued more than before. Ruiz said that after that storm, she got what she’d describe as a college degree in “hurricane policy”.

“We have everything straight. Since Thursday, we were already letting staff know the processes of working without power or internet. Communication is here, and is 100% better than when we were hit by Maria.”

Ruiz said the Federal Emergency Management Agency has not called yet. She believes the reason behind that is the continuing rain and the agency waiting to see the severity of damage on the island before making a move to provide aid.

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