Caribbean hurricanes hit close to home for sophomore

Nearly two weeks after category four Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, the island has been plunged into a humanitarian crisis, with widespread flooding and virtually no electrical power, as Maria came two weeks after category five Hurricane Irma, destroying what Irma didn’t.

For sophomore Vicky Otrhalek, the hurricanes hit much closer to home than it did for most Frisco residents as she has relatives that live there.

I was really devastated by the news,

— sophomore Vicky Otrhalek

“When I heard that my family was going to be hit again, I felt very scared and anxious for them knowing that it would be worse than Irma,” Otrhalek said. “I was really devastated by the news.”

The Gandias, Otrhalek’s family in Puerto Rico, did not evacuate their house in Guaynabo and saw the full extent of Maria’s fury.

“Desolation, trees on the floor,” uncle Lucho Gandia said via text. “Cement post broken in half, garage doors broken. Long lines to buy gasoline, more than four hours to reach the gas station.”

Satellite images from before and after show the majority of the island in darkness.

“It looks like a winter day in summer, the trees have no leaves,” cousin Vivianna Gandia said via text. “The roads are blocked by trees and electric cables, and zinc roofs.”

Military personnel has been sent to the island to help with distribution of supplies like food and water.

“Relief efforts are slow, communication towers are down, so drivers can’t be told where to go,” Lucho said via text. “Supermarkets are empty.”

In Barranquitas, cousin Giovanna Gandia secured everything her family owned and waited out the hurricane.

My city looks really devastated that it breaks my heart, the trees are all gone where I live,

— Giovanna Gandia

“My city looks really devastated that it breaks my heart, the trees are all gone where I live,” Giovanna Gandia said via text. “We are surrounded with mountains and they are a lot of landslides and the houses are destroyed. It was more scarier because the wind, you could hear it talk and see the trees falling and everything flying.”

Estimates of the storm’s cost are up to $95 billion, a devastating blow to an already struggling Puerto Rican economy.

“It was unreal, I was like ‘No, it couldn’t happen,’” Vivianna said via text. “But it did and it destroyed the island.”