Biden visits Puerto Rico to survey Hurricane Fiona damage, as Hurricane Ian aid efforts underway

Michael Perchick Image
Monday, October 3, 2022
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President Biden visited Puerto Rico Monday, about three weeks after Hurricane Fiona hit the island.

President Biden visited Puerto Rico Monday, about three weeks after Hurricane Fiona hit the island.

"The perception I'd say on the island is it doesn't stop," said Doel Gonzalez, co-owner of Spanglish, a Puerto Rican restaurant with a location in both Raleigh and Durham.

Gonzalez was born and grew up in Puerto Rico, and still has family and friends there.

"This time of year, it's just always so tough. Just knowing that we're very likely to get hit by something and when something hits us, it just ends up destroying us. I mean (Hurricane) Maria wasn't even that long ago. And we're still recovering from that," Gonzalez explained.

In 2017, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico as a Category 5, with analysis by George Washington University estimating nearly 3,000 people on the island died. Officials report at least 25 people died stemming from Hurricane Fiona.

"It would be great if we had a stronger infrastructure or at least support to build one," said Gonzalez.

Monday, Biden announced "a $60 million investment to shore up levees and flood walls, and create a new flood warning system to help residents better prepare for future storms."

The President will visit Florida Wednesday, where the death toll from Hurricane Ian nears 100 people, including four in North Carolina. Several non-profit organizations are mobilizing aid to Florida, including the American Red Cross in Raleigh.

"I will be working with Food Service, so I'll be working in kitchens, preparing, serving meals, possibly delivering meals to areas that may still not be quite passable," said Cindy Romig, a volunteer with the organization.

"Prior to the storm, we sent a very small contingency of a few hundred crew members down to Florida from the Carolinas. They were specialists to assist down there. But at this time, they've made good progress down there. They were about 97% restored in our service area last night," said Jeff Brooks, a spokesperson for Duke Energy.

Here in the Triangle, clean-up efforts continue from Ian, including in Cary, where a fallen tree on Charles Court knocked out power to several homes on the street.

"My wife and I have medical issues and I needed to take - she couldn't stay here because we had no power to operate her CPAP machine. I do have a generator but I couldn't get it working in that quick in order. Got it working next day, later after the power was restored. But we had to get the CPAP machine to her, to where she was staying. I took her over to one of my daughter's houses for the night. I just came back here and weathered it out," said Mike Babuin, a homeowner.

Babuin said his home was impacted by the storm.

"We had some roof damage. Leaks to multiple places yet to be determined. I've got to get a roofer in here. Then I had part of a gate out in front get blown over," Babuin explained.

The tree was removed from the road the following day.

Brooks explained power was largely restored across the state within 48 hours.

"We're in a good place right now for outages, but we've still got another two months almost of hurricane season, so we're not out of the woods yet."