[Coral-List] Severe devastation in Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria

Edwin Hernandez coral_giac at yahoo.com
Thu Sep 21 22:00:48 EDT 2017

Dear coral listers:

Hola! This is a short notice to update you about the massive devastation that occurred in Puerto Rico due tonthe impact of category 5 Hurricane María in Sept. 20-21, 2017.

María made landfall just south of Yabucoa Bay in southeastern Puerto Rico with 175 mph sustained winds and left the island 8-10 hr later with category 4 winds of 140 mph. Sustained winds across the mountains were estimated to range between 160 and 200 mph, depending on the elevation and distance from the eye. Wave action reached up to 40' (13 m).

This hurricane passed just two weeks after the eyewall of category 5 h Hurricane Irma swept the northeastern Caribbean, and passed just 12 nm north of Culebra Island in eastern Puerto Rico, with 185 mph sustained winds, and gusts of up to 225 mph, generating 30-50' waves (9-15 m).

Nevertheless, we are alive! We survived this thing without any significant damage to our home but everything around our apartment was devastated. There is not a single wooden house standing around us. And 100% of the island lost power and water. 

No communication yet with Vieques and Culebra island, neither with small municipalities in the countryside that were swept by the eye. Just preliminary information of entire municipalities with almost all houses lost. We had the northern eyewall here just about 5 miles south of San Juan. This was much more impressive and strong than Hugo (1989).

It has been estimated that restoring electricity, at least across large cities, may take 4-6 months. For other parts of the island, it may take over a year. All major power lines were lost. There is very limited telephone or cellular communication, and very limited internet.

There are also almost entire low-lying entire coastal towns that were completely drowned by coastal flooding with nearly 100% houses lost. Multiple apartment buildings simply exploded during the storm as cristal windows and door could not withstand the wind pressure.

Many areas did not even recover from the impact of Hurricane Irma two weeks ago. They never recovered electricity or water. And there was significant scarcity of water, food items, batteries and other critical goods, so not many people were able to prepare for María just because they were still recovering from Irma.

We did lose 95-99% of our coral farms and 100% of our coral out-plants with 7-11 meter high swells during Irma in Culebra. We lost 15 years of work conducted by Sociedad Ambiente Marino and UPR, and close
To 60,000 corals. Now with Maria I think we lost everything else.

Also, we already know there was dramatic coral fragmentation in the shallow reefs diring Irma in Culebra and along the northern PR coast. We expect worst damage now. 

As soon as conditions get a bit normal we would try to get the water. There is an emergency restriction for people to be out in the streets after 6 pm. Most highways are still intransitable. Secondary and tertiary roads will remain shutdown for weeks due to treefalls, fallen lightpoles and cables, and flooding. We won't even know for a while if our research vessel survived or not.

Flooding was record breaking for many areas, specially along coastal valleys... Record ocean flooding penetration occurred across multiple urban areas, and over 30" of rainfall along most of the island. River backflows were documented along some areas even several km upland from estuaries, particularly during storm surge, or following heavy flooding of large rivers.

We lost almost all communications, and even our two doppler radars. We lost all of our tv stations and all radio stations, but one, during the emergency. But luckily, aparently there was only one fatality associated to this event...

Please, keep an eye on the news about how to support PR. I guess we would also need major economic and/or logistical support to adress damages to coral reefs, to reconstruct coral farms, and to start all over again our previously successful reef restoration program.

Bit anyway, we are happy we are alive, positive and good!!

Will keep you posted as we can in the future. Internet access is super limited, and so will be for a while.


> -- 
> Edwin A. Hernández Delgado, Ph.D.
> Affiliate Researcher
> University of Puerto Rico
> Center for Applied Tropical Ecology and Conservation
> PO Box 23360
> San Juan, Puerto Rico 00931-3360
> Tel. 787-764-0000, x-88090
> edwin.hernandezdelgado at gmail.com
> edwin.hernandez13 at upr.edu
> http://upr.academia.edu/EdwinHernandez
> http://www.researchgate.net/profile/Edwin_Hernandez2
> http://catec.upr.edu

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