Hurricane Maria

Photo from Miami Dade College's Facebook page

Puerto Rican students who were displaced by Hurricane Maria will soon be able to continue their studies in South Florida — at a discount.

This week Gov. Rick Scott asked public colleges and universities to offer in-state tuition rates to Puerto Ricans affected by the storm. Many schools responded — and some are going further by extending the offer to people from other places affected by recent natural disasters. And private schools are pitching in, too.

When Hurricane Maria raked Puerto Rico last week as a Category 4 storm, it cut off electricity and communications island-wide, including at the Arecibo Observatory, one of the world's largest radio telescopes.

Outside of his little business on the side of the road in a small town in Loiza, Puerto Rico, Santiago Quiñones adjusts a small solar panel.

It's charging a floodlight, to illuminate the cramped space at night. He takes it down and demonstrates how it works. "You can't see right now because it's daylight, but it's already charged," he says in Spanish.

Like nearly everyone else in Puerto Rico, 73-year-old Quiñones has lost access to the power grid. His house was also badly damaged by floodwaters when Hurricane Maria swept over the island.

The U.S. Coast Guard opened the seaports in St. Croix, St. Thomas and Puerto Rico over the weekend, but only for daylight operations at many sites.

Getting supplies onto the islands and people off after Hurricane Maria devastated the region continues to be a challenge.

Carl Juste / Miami Herald

Standing outside his church in Palmetto Bay on Sunday, Jesus Figueroa listened intently to information coming across his iPhone from Puerto Rico on Zello. The walkie-talkie app transmits messages on group channels when cell phone service is a challenge – and in Puerto Rico right now it’s an epic ordeal.

Carl Juste / Miami Herald

Families desperate to communicate with their loved ones in Puerto Rico — thrashed by the most ferocious storm to strike the territory in at least 85 years — have invaded the internet and flooded phone lines searching for ways to get in contact after Hurricane Maria knocked out power and most means of communication to the entire island.

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Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

¿Estás bien? (Are you okay?)” my brother asked, a whisper in the darkness. Then he pointed his flashlight at me: “Alfredo?”

We were just a couple of hours into Hurricane Maria’s reign of terror as it made its way through Puerto Rico. Unlike many, we were in our mother’s two-story concrete home in a comfortable, middle-class suburb of San Juan. One town over, our mother was keeping busy taking care of her own mother and ailing uncle. 

Carl Juste / Miami Herald

Puerto Rico woke up Thursday morning to catastrophic damage and flooding after Hurricane Maria. The major storm roared across the Caribbean island on Wednesday, and the devastation – especially power outages – is island-wide.

Back-to-back natural disasters in Mexico and across the Caribbean have left millions of people reeling.

Updated at 11 p.m. ET

Puerto Rico is trying to start the process of recovering from Hurricane Maria — and it's doing so after the powerful storm blew homes apart, filled roads with water and tore at its infrastructure. Flash floods are persisting, and the island has no electricity service.

"We are without power, the whole island is without power," Jenniffer González-Colón, Puerto Rico's resident commissioner — its representative in Congress — told Morning Edition on Thursday. González-Colón spoke from Carolina, near San Juan.

Edgar B. Herwick III / WLRN News

Marlon Hill, a Miami-based attorney, stepped to the microphone on Wednesday evening at Holy Family Episcopal Church in Miami Gardens, a longtime hub for Miami’s Caribbean Community, and urged action.

“People at work, people at your church, people at your backyard fete, tell them that you are part of the Caribbean Strong Relief Fund and organize supplies. Get them to us,” he told the approximately 100 people gathered there.

National Hurricane Center

COMMENTARY

I’ll confess I said something rather stupid during Hurricane Irma.

As the monster storm drove westward, a colleague checked his tracker app and said it would clip Cuba. Without thinking I blurted, “That’s good news.” Not because I wanted a hurricane to hit Cuba. I just reasoned if Irma’s less dangerous left side grazed Cuba’s mountains, it might drop heavy rain on the island but it might also disrupt the hurricane.

As in: weaken it before it hit Florida. As in: before it hit my house.

Updated at 2:45 a.m. ET Thursday

Hurricane Maria has damaged Puerto Rico's power infrastructure in ways that, in a worst-case scenario, could take months to repair, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló told CNN late Wednesday.

"Our telecommunications system is partially down," he said. "Our energy infrastructure is completely down."

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