Puerto Rico’s disastrous plight, another big glacier breaks off

It’s sad irony that the aftermath of major hurricanes is often worse than the storm.

It’s easy to forget about weather events after they move on. But the state of affairs in Puerto Rico this week after Hurricane Maria is still dire for many. What’s happening now is nothing short of a rapidly developing humanitarian disaster.

For many there is no water. Food and medicine is running short. Most of the island is still without power. Check out this remarkably sad set of before and after nighttime images from NASA’s Suomi NPP satellite via Andrew Freedman at Mashable.

Maria’s violent winds simply shredded the NWS San Juan Doppler radar site.

Infrastructure on the island is still in tatters, according to press reports form AP.

A dam upstream of the towns of Quebradillas and Isabela in northwest Puerto Rico was cracked but had not burst by Saturday night as water continued to pour out of rain-swollen Lake Guajataca. Federal officials said Friday that 70,000 people, the number who live in the surrounding area, would have to be evacuated. But Javier Jimenez, mayor of the nearby town of San Sebastian, said he believed the number was far smaller.

Secretary of Public Affairs Ramon Rosario said about 300 families were in harm’s way.

The governor said there is “significant damage” to the dam and authorities believe it could give way at any moment. “We don’t know how long it’s going to hold. The integrity of the structure has been compromised in a significant way,” Rossello said.

Some residents nonetheless returned to their homes Saturday as the water levels in the reservoir began to sink.

“There were a lot of people worried and crying, but that’s natural, because the reservoir was about to break through,” said Maria Nieves, 43. “They couldn’t open the spillway until later in the night.”

The 345-yard (316-meter) dam, which was built around 1928, holds back a man-made lake covering about 2 square miles (5 square kilometers). More than 15 inches (nearly 40 centimeters) of rain from Maria fell on the surrounding mountains.

Officials said 1,360 of the island’s 1,600 cellphone towers were downed, and 85 percent of above-ground and underground phone and internet cables were knocked out. With roads blocked and phones dead, officials said, the situation may worsen.

At least 31 lives in all have been lost around the Caribbean due to Maria, including at least 15 on hard-hit Dominica. Haiti reported three deaths; Guadeloupe, two; and the Dominican Republic, one.

Across Puerto Rico, more than 15,000 people are in shelters, including some 2,000 rescued from the north coastal town of Toa Baja. Many Puerto Ricans planned to head to the mainland to temporarily escape the devastation.

85-billion in catastrophic losses?

The Wall Street Journal reports catastrophe-modeling firm AIR Worldwide is already putting out some incredible catastrophic loss numbers for Maria. Keep in mind, these numbers are only estimate insured losses.

Antarctic glacier breaks free

Meanwhile in Antarctica a glacial chink twice the size of Manhattan has broken free from the Pine Island Glacier.

This is floating ice so it won’t have a direct immediate impact on sea level. But scientists are watching the buffer zone between land based ice retreat at 2.5 miles per year. Chris Mooney from the Washington Post elaborates on why that’s a concern for future land based ice that can raise sea level.

  • planettes

    Shocked and saddened by how little news coverage there has been in the aftermath of Maria in Puerto Rico, and am heartsick at the devastation I’m seeing in the scant news there is about the island. Why so many days before people have started covering this? Also please note that PR includes the islands of Vieques and Culebra, which are in dire straights and have not been mentioned in any of the major news outlets that I have checked. I spent time on Vieques last summer, and the charming town of Esperanza on the Southern side of the island has sustained major damage. They are currently without drinking water as well as power. Many people are still waiting to hear whether loved ones are safe. Thank you for mentioning Puerto Rico on the updraft blog.