Hurricane Maria struck the island of Puerto Rico in September 2017, becoming the third-costliest hurricane to hit the U.S. It also cost the lives of nearly 3,000 Puerto Ricans.
Six years after the storm, recovery efforts are ongoing, along with analyses of just how badly the storm devastated the U.S. territory.
FOX Weather correspondent Nicole Valdes shines a light on Hurricane Maria’s impact in the episode of FOX Weather Reports called "Ruin and Resurrection: The Fury of Hurricane Maria," which airs Wednesday, Sept. 20 at 9 p.m. ET on FOX Weather.
According to the National Weather Service, damage from the storm included a loss of 80% of Puerto Rico’s utility poles, plus all transmission lines. This led to power outages for the island’s entire population of 3.4 million.
In the episode, she speaks with community members who experienced the widespread power outages – some of whom were without power for 85 days after the storm passed. Without power, many residents also lost access to water, as electricity was necessary for powering their water supplies.
By the end of January 2018 – about four months after Maria hit – electricity had only been restored to approximately 65% of Puerto Rico, according to the NWS.
Six years after Maria, power issues persist throughout the island.
"Electricity, it's a basic human right," said Natali Gaskins Rosado, a resident of Puerto Rico and a leader for the company Barrio Electrico, which has been working to provide solar panels to homes still struggling to access electricity after the hurricane.
NOAA estimates that the damage Hurricane Maria caused in Puerto Rico, along with the U.S. Virgin Islands off its eastern shore, totaled about $90 billion.
For context, the costliest hurricane to have hit Puerto Rico before Maria was Hurricane Georges in 1998, which caused about $5 billion (in 2017 dollars).
U.S. federal aid was sent to Puerto Rico to help with the recovery efforts. However, concerns were raised about how that aid was used, as many residents continued to experience hardships caused by Maria long after it had passed.
In March 2019, the U.S. Office of Inspector General opened a review of the Housing and Urban Development’s disbursement of an estimated $20 billion intended to assist with relief after Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Irma, which struck a few weeks earlier.
In the FOX Weather Reports episode, Valdes dives into the issue from the perspective of Puerto Ricans. She even speaks with community members about the FBI announcing the arrest of two Puerto Rican mayors who are accused of accepting bribes during the country’s period of recovery.
The damage caused by Hurricane Maria has brought attention to some ongoing struggles in Puerto Rico – such as old infrastructure, the country’s mounting debt, and a recent economic crisis – as they have contributed to the island’s slow recovery. The people most affected by these struggles are the Puerto Rican people, who are doing what they can to make a difference on the ground.
For example, among the community members and politicians Valdes visits in the documentary, are volunteers from Puerto Rico Rise Up. They tell her about their efforts to make their communities safer and provide what they need to be prepared in the event of another hurricane. By the time Valdes and her FOX Weather crew interviewed them, they had delivered 80,000 boxes of food to more than 300,000 people.
To hear more about stories of survival after Hurricane Maria, watch the premiere of the FOX Weather Reports episode "Ruin and Resurrection: The Fury of Hurricane Maria" on FOX Weather on Wednesday, Sept. 20 at 9 p.m. ET.