Hurricane Isaías is just one hurricane of an expectedly active season. The storm-battered the Caribbean islands before making its way to the Carolinas and up the east coast. The storm has killed 5 people and we are still at the beginning of hurricane season.
Tropical Storm Isaías slammed into Puerto Rico on July 31.
The storm knocked out power to thousands of Puerto Ricans as the storm approached. Dozens had to be rescued from the area of Mayaguez as flooding devastated the area. José Ortiz, the CEO of the state-run power company resigned after the power outages rocked the island still reeling from hurricanes and earthquakes.
The storm grew to a category 1 hurricane as it battered the Bahamas.
The storm killed at least one person in the Bahamas and weakened to a tropical storm as it hit the island. The storm triggered a series of warning along the Florida coastline from Boca Raton to Brevard county. The storm ravaged parts of the Bahamas with winds up to 80 miles per hour.
Florida was spared much of the storm as it changed course.
Florida, which is already grappling with a terrifyingly out of control Covid outbreak, was spared a direct hit from Hurricane Isaías. The storm turned north and brushed along Florida’s eastern coastline. The storm was headed directly to the Carolinas.
North and South Carolina braced for a direct hit from the storm as it made its way north.
The storm made landfall with 85 mile-per-hour winds in the Carolinas bring heavy winds and flooding. Millions of people lost power as the storm lashed the east coast for two days while making its way up to New York. Flooding was particularly devastating in Pennsylvania as the storm forced millions sin to some form of flood warning.
The storm arrived in New York on August 4 and packed a punch.
Tropical Storm Isaías devastated the tri-state region. Millions are without power in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut after the storm destroyed homes, power lines, and cars.
Officials for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are warning the east coast of a more active hurricane season. After Isaías, the season could bring 10 more hurricanes with potentially devastating effects. As the season picks up, it is important to be prepared. Makes sure you have an emergency plan and an emergency kit.
Once again, the year 2020 is delivering a shocker but this time it‘s in the form of devastation caused by a record-breaking hurricane season. So far, the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane season, which is set to end on Nov. 30, has had 30 named storms, 13 of them hurricanes. And six of those hurricanes were considered “major”— Eta and Iota among them — meaning they were Category 3 or higher.
Meteorologists have been forced to use the Greek alphabet to name the new systems after having exhausted the 21-name list that is prepared for each hurricane season. The last time the Greek alphabet was used was in 2005, when there were 28 storms strong enough to be named.
Now, as Hurricane Iota ravages Central America, it’s becoming clear that an imminent humanitarian catastrophe is setting up across the region.
Hurricane Iota is ravaging Central America just two weeks after communities there were hit by Hurricane Eta.
Late on Monday, Hurricane Iota made landfall as a powerful and “extremely dangerous” Category 4 hurricane. Aside form the catastrophic winds and life-threatening storm surge, the hurricane is impacting already devastated communities recently hit by Hurricane Eta.
People across Central America will feel the impacts of this record breaking storm, which is expected to produce up to 30 inches of rain in some areas of Nicaragua and Honduras through Friday. The intense rainfall could lead to significant flash flooding and mudslides in higher elevations, the hurricane center said.
Dozens of Indigenous communities were evacuated throughout the weekend in Nicaragua and Honduras, where the military shared pictures on Twitter of soldiers helping people out of stilted wooden homes and carrying them to safety. One of the soldiers stood in knee deep water, holding a resident’s pink backpack in the same arm as his service weapon.
The forecast, at least, offers some hope for those in Iota’s path. The National Hurricane Center expects the storm to rapidly weaken over the next 36 hours as it moves toward El Salvador across the mountainous terrain of inland Nicaragua and Honduras.
Honduras was hit particularly hard by Hurricane Eta.
Central America is still reeling from Hurricane Eta, which struck less than two weeks ago and made landfall about 15 miles from where Iota did. Aid workers are still struggling to reach communities cut off by washed-out bridges, downed trees and flooded roads.
According to the Red Cross, more than 3.6 million people across the region have been affected by the storms.
Antonio Herrera told Mitú in an interview that his modest home had already been reduced to rubble by Eta. Herrera and his daughter were staying in an improvised shelter but it’s directly in the path of Hurricane Iota. A GoFundMe has been setup to help Herrera and his family recover from the devastation wrought by both hurricanes.
“This Hurricane Iota is a monster,” he said. “After Eta and the damaged it caused, I’m afraid for all of us.”
Herrera added that even without a disaster devastating the region, Honduras is a country where half the population doesn’t have enough food to eat. And now, because of Hurricane Eta, Herrera counts himself among that group of Hondurans.
He adds that, “Honduras is a challenging place just to make sure that the everyday needs are met. And of course, all of this happening during a global pandemic — no possibility of social distancing, obviously, in those sheltering situations.”
Many Central American leaders are blaming climate change for the disasters and are seeking international aid.
As the region is pummeled by storm after storm, the leaders of Honduras and Guatemala have called for in increase in international funding to help combat the effects of climate change – which are having an outsized impact on the region.
“Central America is not the producer of this climate change situation,” the president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández, said at a news conference. “Instead, we are the most affected.”
President Orlando has called on the United Nations to declare Central America as the region most affected by climate change worldwide.
“Hunger, poverty and destruction do not have years to wait,” said Alejandro Giammattei, the Guatemalan leader. “If we don’t want to see hordes of Central Americans looking to go to countries with a better quality of life, we have to create walls of prosperity in Central America.”
Disclaimer: The author of this story has a personal connection with Antonio Herrera, a victim of these storms in Honduras mentioned in this story. The GoFundMe for Herrera was created before this story was written but was included as many GoFundMe fundraisers arewhen relevant.
The relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico has long been contentious, ever since the Spanish-American War in 1898. Since then, the Caribbean island has been in a strange limbo position between a ‘U.S. Territory’ and unofficially as the world’s oldest colony.
Although they’re U.S. citizens in name and passport, Puerto Rican’s who live in Puerto Rico cannot vote for president, don’t have voting representation in Congress, and have been saddled with a fiscal oversight board (PROMESA) in order to repay its debts—forcing austerity on residents suffering a 23% unemployment rate and a much higher rate of poverty than the incorporated states.
But this week, on Election Day, Puerto Ricans voted—for the sixth time since 1967—on whether they prefer the ongoing territorial status, or to become a U.S. state and the results are in: it’s pro-statehood.
Last week, Puerto Ricans voted to support U.S. statehood.
As Puerto Ricans voted on Tuesday for their local leaders, there was another decision they had to make: Whether or not the island territory should be admitted as the newest U.S. state. Although it’s a non-binding referendum and not expected to change Puerto Rico’s status anytime soon, it was still seen as a barometer of Puerto Ricans’ appetite for statehood.
So far, with most of the votes counted, residents narrowly favored statehood with 52% of the vote while about 47% of voters were against it, according to the election commission’s website.
Although the U.S. mainland still sees Puerto Rico as a commonwealth, many Puerto Ricans, including the island’s Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González, a Republican, say the island is constantly treated as a colony.
“Sometimes it’s a little bit ironic that the beacon of democracy in the world, which is the United States, is fighting for equality and fighting for democracy and yet you get it in your own backyard — the oldest colony, with more than 120 years without allowing Puerto Rican’s to vote for president, to vote in Congress or to even have federal laws apply equally to American citizens on the island,” said González, who was reelected as commissioner last Tuesday.
But what’s next? There are many obstacles standing in the way.
Even though President-Elect Joe Biden is a backer of statehood, as are top Democrats in the House and Senate and some Florida Republicans, it’s unclear how much of a priority Puerto Rico would be if Democrats take control of both the White House and Congress. The drive is complicated by a separate but often-paired push for statehood for the District of Columbia.
“It is unlikely that the question of Puerto Rico as a state will be taken up by the Congress,” says political scientist and researcher Carlos Vargas Ramos, in an interview with ABC News.
Aside from being a nonbinding referendum, Ramos said voter turnout in this referendum could still be an issue for Congress. As of September 2020, there were around 2.3 million eligible voters on the island, according to the election commission’s website. From those eligible voters, nearly 1.2 million people answered the statehood plebiscite.
“It’s gonna be difficult for advocates of statehood to argue that this is a clear mandate to push for statehood, particularly when you have a Congress that is reluctant to take up the question,” added Vargas Ramos.
Puerto Rican statehood would create consequences far beyond the island.
Although the referendum only dealt with Puerto Rico’s future, it could have ramifications far beyond the territory. Puerto Rican statehood would mean Americans on the island could vote in presidential elections, have quick access to federal aid in crises and gain full representation in Congress.
“Puerto Ricans get treated in many ways like second-class citizens,” U.S. Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fla.), who has introduced his own bill setting forth a process of admission for the island, said in an interview with ABC News.
In Congress, statehood for Puerto Rico would result in two new senators and four representatives to the House. If the District of Columbia gains statehood at the same time, that would mean another two senators and one additional House member.
The decision could even have implications for travelers to the island.
Right now, about 95 percent of visitors to Puerto Rico come from the U.S., but many in the tourism industry would like to see more international visitors from Latin America, Europe, and Asia. Currently, citizens of the whole of nearby Latin America and the Caribbean require a visa to enter the U.S., and thus Puerto Rico.
And thanks to the pandemic the island has suffered huge losses in tourism dollars. Thelack of control that Puerto Rico has over its own travel regulations means that the industry will have to wait quite a while to make up for that loss, while the U.S. at large continues to be an undesirable destination for international travelers.
The matter is complicated by the Jones Act of 1920, which requires that all goods come to Puerto Rico through the U.S. If this were finally overturned, it would allow direct trade with other nations and decrease the prices of food and other items sold on the island. Right now, travelers looking to the Caribbean can go to the Dominican Republic much more affordably.
Despite the ongoing uncertainty, one thing is clear: things need to change.
The relationship between the U.S. and its Puerto Rican territory has long been one of violence; independence movements and even the flag have been made illegal in the past by the U.S. This reality is often hidden from travelers, but should be acknowledged and respected.
But where the island goes from here is not a cut-and-dry question, as deep ties have developed over the more than 100 years of colonialism that would require years of change, whether sovereignty were won or statehood were decided upon.
That moment might be coming: Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez is now trying to push the Puerto Rican Self-Determination Act of 2020, which would form a status convention made up of Puerto Rican voters who would be tasked with deciding upon a long-term solution. In the meantime, travelers should remember that sun, sand, and rum don’t tell the whole story—and that the future of the archipelago should be determined by Puerto Ricans.