One Year After Hurricane Maria
One year ago, Hurricane Maria swept across Puerto Rico with winds up to 155 mph, devastating the island of 3.4 million residents.
This high-end Category 4 hurricane was the worst storm to hit the island in 80 years.
Heavy rains and flash floods turned streets into rivers, causing widespread property damage and leveling many buildings. There was limited access to clean water and food, communication networks were crippled, and the island’s power grid was destroyed, leaving residents without electricity.
A massive disaster relief effort swung in to action. As part of this response, FedEx sent relief on more than 100 flights to Puerto Rico, delivering more than 12.8 million pounds of medicines, hygiene kits, water and other supplies. On September 29, FedEx Express President & CEO David Cunningham and Juan Cento, President of FedEx Latin America and the Caribbean, visited FedEx team members in San Juan to personally deliver care packages to them and their families.
On this trip, I met FedEx Security Specialist Idaliz Gaspar Lugo who was seven months pregnant at the time. While reviewing pictures of the damage to her home, I was amazed by her enthusiasm and positive outlook on what was sure to be a tough road ahead.
I recently re-connected with Idaliz to hear how Puerto Rico was continuing to recover, and about the newest member to her family, daughter Irene Victoria.
Idaliz: I’ve lived in Quintas de Canovanas II, in the city of Canovanas, PR for 12 years. I was lucky to not be in my house during the storm. There was a flood warning in our area, and since I was pregnant, and have a 7-year-old son, I decided not to take any risks, and we went to another location. Unfortunately, most of my neighbors stayed, and they were not so lucky.
Jason: Can you describe the flood?
Idaliz: This is the first time we’ve seen a flood like this one. This was a mud flood caused by an overflow of a river near the house complex. My next-door neighbor survived the flood standing on their kitchen counter. My cousin, who lives in a two-story house at the end of my street, took pictures from her second story before and after the storm.
Jason: What was the condition of your home when you returned?
Idaliz: I was heartbroken when I returned to my house. Everything was covered in mud. It was like a huge wave that moved everything out of place. The house was a mess. I lost most of my belongings that were two or three feet from the floor, but I was happy my family was ok, especially my unborn child. Everything else is replaceable. We had no water or electrical power. I spent about a week getting mud out of the house. In my area, the water was restored three days after the hurricane. The electricity was restored 45 days later. Obtaining gasoline was a nightmare. We still have communities in Puerto Rico without water or power service.
Jason: How did you manage during the sweltering heat?
Idaliz: I could not deal with the house at that moment because of my pregnancy, so my husband and I decided to rent at another location while we repaired the damages to the house. It took me about six months to fix everything, but I don’t want to go back. I don’t want to go through the same experience again. I’ll eventually sell that house.
Jason: Your daughter was born two months after your electricity was restored.
Idaliz: My baby was born on January 9, 2018. Her name is Irene Victoria. Events like this one make you value all you have. It makes you appreciate life even more. I am glad to be working for FedEx. All the employees received lots of supplies, water and food from the hurricane relief efforts that arrived at the station. One year after the hurricane we are slowly going back to “normal.” However, we are all scared of going through something like this again. But, we are certainly going to be better prepared for a future occasion.