Puerto Rico

In a tiny sliver of shade, on a hill next to Puerto Rico's Route 65, Kiara Rodriguez de Jesus waves a sparkly pink hand fan to keep cool.

"I trust in God," she says. "Please, come the gas."

Along with her family, parked in a Volvo SUV, she has been in line for gasoline since 3 a.m., she says. Now it's after 1:30 p.m. And like everyone else at this gas station, she has no idea how much longer she'll be waiting.

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.

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.

Irma Rivera Aviles, like nearly 200 others, is stuck at a shelter in Cataño, Puerto Rico, where conditions are getting worse daily. Nearly a week after Hurricane Maria rampaged through the country, she's desperately pleading for help. "The governor needs to come here and take a look at our critical situation," she says. "The bathrooms flooded and aren't working, sewage is overflowing, the generator is broken and we are here in the dark."

"We desperately need water, power and ice," she says.

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.

CAITLIN OSTROFF / MIAMI HERALD

The Florida Roundup concentrated this week on the recovery efforts after Hurricane Irma. Guests included: 

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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 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."

National Hurricane Center

There is dangerous déjà vu in the Caribbean right now as Hurricane Maria begins tearing across the islands – just two weeks after Hurricane Irma did. And the residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are girding for an especially hard hit on Wednesday.

Updated at 5:30 a.m. ET Wednesday

Even though Maria has weakened to a Category 4 storm, it remains a dangerous hurricane. Maria's maximum sustained winds are near 155 mph. The National Hurricane Center says the storm should keep that intensity until it makes landfall. Puerto Rico has long been spared from a direct hit by a hurricane.

Updated at 2:20 a.m. ET Wednesday

Updated at 5:30 a.m. ET

The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Maria is an extremely dangerous storm. It was a Category 5 storm when it hit the island of Dominica. Later it was downgraded to a Category 4 hurricane. But a short time ago, forecasters says Maria had regained the strength of a Category 5 hurricane.

Updated at 3:15 a.m. ET Tuesday

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