By: Victoria Martinez
Nancy Lopez places plastic bags over the windows and towels under the doors to keep the water from coming inside the house.
Lopez recalls hiding inside her bedroom, crouched down away from the windows, while holding her adult daughter tightly for the maximum protection within the safety of the concrete walls.
“I was very scared; right away my electricity turned off, there was a lot of wind and it was very scary. The wind scared me the most,” Lopez said.
On Sept. 20, 2017 Puerto Rico, the third largest island of the United States, was struck by a Category 5 hurricane named Maria.
This is the first time Lopez, 58, has spoken about her experiences with Maria, one of the worst hurricanes in the history of the island.
Maria’s winds that were over 150 mph left countless Puerto Ricans without running water, electricity, and destroyed and flooded buildings.
Before the storm hit, Miranda Elizabeth Santiago Rasche’s grandfather offered to evacuate their family from Puerto Rico to San Antonio. The family decided to stay put.
“It was intense, we have a lot of family there. Nobody wants to leave because this is their place,” said Rasche a junior communication major at Texas A&M University-San Antonio.
After Maria hit, it took three weeks for Rasche and her family to receive a text message from their relatives. It took another week before they heard their voices over the phone.
“To finally get in contact with everybody was truly a blessing because you go days without knowing and without hearing anything.”
Lopez uses the word “desesperado” (desperate) frequently when asked about her state of mind.
Outside her damaged home, people weren’t able to pass because of the flooding. The main streets were blocked off by giant light poles on the ground with high volumes of water everywhere. Street signs were scattered all over.
She saw tons of cars flooded with water inside including her daughter’s car. The patio cover over her condo was demolished, the palm trees that once were in front of her home disappeared, including her plants.
“Todo, literalmente todo estaba en el suelo (everything, literally everything was on the ground) . . . I felt very desperate and vulnerable during this time. For 51 days I had no electricity. I was locked up in my house and when the night was coming I would secure myself in the house for my own safety,” Lopez said.
She mentioned if you were to fly over the island today, you would see bright blue plastic tarps, which are replacements for missing roofs.
Lopez said the main cities are up and running, but the center of the island where poor residents live are uninhabitable. There are still people without roofs, running water and food.
“In my opinion, I wish the government of Puerto Rico would be more prepared . . . just in case this happens again.”