Share this article:
Nearly two months after Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc on Puerto Rico, killing at least 51 people, thousands of residents have fled the island with one-way plane tickets for the mainland United States.
Meanwhile, Puerto Rico continues down the long and difficult road to recovery.
Seven weeks after Maria pounded the island with heavy rainfall, powerful winds and flooding, many residents in rural areas remain without access to drinking water and electricity. Maria’s devastation has left many with no other choice but to leave their homes behind for better quality of life.
Florida, a popular destination for evacuees, has organized reception centers in cities including Orlando and Miami to welcome those seeking help with resettling in the mainland.
Some agencies are also assisting evacuees with finding job opportunities. Since Puerto Ricans are migrating from a U.S. territory rather than a foreign country, evacuees will not have to repay costs of the evacuation process.
More than 36,000 Puerto Rican residents have arrived in Florida since Oct. 3, according to the Florida Division of Emergency Management.
About 1 million Puerto Ricans currently live in Florida, with the state’s Puerto Rican population set to surpass its Cuban population by 2020, according to a report by the Hispanic Federation.
Evacuees are also heading to states with large Puerto Rican populations, including Connecticut, Illinois and New York.
Students at the University of Puerto Rico have opportunities to continue their education at mainland-based institutions including Cornell University, which has offered evacuees a free semester of study.
However, will this mass migration to the mainland U.S. further cripple Puerto Rico’s efforts to bounce back after Maria?
“It’s an absolute humanitarian crisis on top of the existing economic crisis that was there before,” said Dean Myerow, bond portfolio manager for Las Olas Wealth Management of NatAlliance Securities, LLC.
Puerto Rico has seen a steady decline in population in recent years. The island had already lost 10 percent of its population between the time of the 2010 U.S. Census to 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Companies hiring Puerto Rican evacuees in Florida
'There's a long way to go': Mount Sinai volunteer reflects on health, infrastructure issues facing Puerto Rico in Maria's aftermath
Water crisis in Puerto Rico: Drinking water may still be contaminated following Maria
What is leptospirosis, the deadly disease spreading in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico?
“The reality is that once an individual sets up roots in the U.S. with a higher-paying job and all of the essential services that won’t be restored for possibly years [in Puerto Rico], the likelihood of that person returning to the island really diminishes year after year,” Myerow said.
In the midst of the ongoing mass migration, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said that without additional aid from the U.S., his island’s recovery process would take a hit.
"Massive migration would deteriorate our [economic] base here in Puerto Rico, and would provoke significant demographic shifting in other areas of the U.S.,” he said.
The bulk of those leaving the island for better opportunities comprise Puerto Rico’s educated middle class, including valued teachers, engineers and doctors.
Puerto’s Rico’s recovery is likely to take years and as the government’s response to Florida and Texas continues following Harvey and Irma, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s staff is stretched thin.
“It’s definitely going to impact the [already struggling economy], it’s going to take them quite a while to rebuild the basic infrastructure,” said Nicholas Sicora, chief executive officer of Disaster and Disability Consultants, LLC.
“They’ve had a lot of problems with outdated systems and equipment, and to rebuild that infrastructure is going to take time, especially because getting the goods there to rebuild that infrastructure has been quite a bit of a challenge,” Sicora said.
If there’s any hope for salvaging Puerto Rico’s rapidly dwindling population, the U.S. government will need to develop a plan to keep Puerto Ricans from abandoning the island, according to Myerow.
“It’s absolutely imperative on the government to figure out a way to create incentives for people to stay in Puerto Rico and team up and rebuild with public-private partnerships to invest in the island to retain its people,” Myerow said.
Comments that don't add to the conversation may be automatically or manually removed by Facebook or AccuWeather. Profanity, personal attacks, and spam will not be tolerated.
After several dry days, the weather will take a downhill turn as NASCAR drivers gear up for the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 in Loudon, New Hampshire, on Sunday.
An 11-million-ton iceberg hovers over the town of Innaarsuit in Greenland. The massive iceberg floats dangerously close to shore, threatening the small town.
Two people suffered shark bites while swimming in the water off Fire Island in Suffolk County, New York, according to NBC New York.
Newly formed Tropical Storm Ampil is set to strengthen as it tracks toward Japan’s Ryukyu Islands into the weekend.
A rainstorm moving up from the south will coincide with a shift in the jet stream and mark the beginning of an extended period of wet, humid conditions in the northeastern US that may last into August.
Eventualmente, la aspirante a ingeniero ambiental espera trabajar tanto con gobiernos como con corporaciones para eliminar microplásticos de los océanos de manera segura y eficiente.
Drenching thunderstorms advanced into the northeastern United States Tuesday afternoon and evening, bringing reports of flash flooding throughout the region.
Weather invariably comes into play at certain points during the Tour de France, especially when some tour stages can be greater than 100 miles in length.