The collection of showers and thunderstorms that once formed Hurricane Beryl is sweeping over Puerto Rico, causing mudslides and power outages on the island, which is still recovering from the destruction wrought by Hurricane Maria last September.
The gale has a 10 percent chance of turning back into a cyclone in the next couple days, according to the National Hurricane Center's 2 p.m. update. That chance jumps to 50 percent by the end of the week when the storm is expected to swing north near the Bahamas on Wednesday or Thursday. In the meantime, the storm is expected to quickly move over Hispaniola on Monday evening.
By noon, Puerto Rico had already begun to feel the effects of the storm. Nearly 21,000 homes and businesses were without power — 1,500 of which still hadn't gotten electricity back after Hurricane Maria — and some rivers had started to flood, Lt. Gov. Luis Rivera Marín told the Miami Herald. The island had also begun to see mudslides in rural areas, he said.
Officials are most concerned about the 60,000 homes still covered with tarps after Hurricane Maria destroyed their roofs, Rivera Marín said. There are also several temporary bridges still in place while the government works to build permanent structures.
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Puerto Rico declared a state of emergency on Friday and urged people in flood-prone areas to seek shelter. Officials opened 28 shelters ahead of the storm with a capacity for 106,000 people. By Monday afternoon, however, only 20 people were in the shelters, Rivera Marín said.
Although local officials are remaining vigilant, Rivera Marín said he was grateful the storm had weakened as it approached Puerto Rico. “I thank God that this didn’t arrive and make landfall as a hurricane in the island especially when the route that was forecasted had it making landfall in the same region that Maria hit us last year,” he said. “That would have been devastating for us.”
Residents were filled with anxiety leading up to the storm. A government mental-health hotline has seen a spike in calls in recent days and residents rushed to stores to stock up on emergency supplies, Rivera Marín said.
“Certainly we are still dealing with traumas regarding what we went through, the catastrophic effect of two major hurricanes in a two-week span and a lot of suffering certainly and post-traumatic syndrome,” he said.
Beryl allowed government officials to practice their new emergency protocols, which were revised after Hurricane Maria, Rivera Marín said. One big change: Businesses will now have a seat at the table in the island’s emergency planning. Most of Puerto Rico’s infrastructure is privatized and government officials learned from Maria that it was important to incorporate the private sector in the emergency-operations center, Rivera Marín said.