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Recovery Following Hurricanes Irma & Maria

Hurricane Maria Storm track, eye approaching southeast Puerto Rico.On September 6, 2017, Hurricane Irma tore through the British and U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, causing catastrophic destruction in the USVI and Puerto Rico. The strongest Atlantic Ocean hurricane ever measured, the Category 5 storm brought 185 mph+ winds that wreaked havoc and devastation. Irma took down power grids and communications in Culebra, St. Thomas, St. John and portions of eastern Puerto Rico, impacting over 1 million people. The St. Thomas hospital and St. John clinic were destroyed. The Puerto Rico & USVI governments shut down for the remainder of the week. US Virgin Islands Governor Kenneth Mapp instituted a 36-hour curfew territory-wide.

Twelve days later, September 19-20, 2017, Hurricane Maria – another intense Category 5 hurricane – brought cataclysmic devastation to St. Croix and Puerto Rico. Maria damaged or destroyed 70% of the buildings on St. Croix, including schools and the island’s only hospital. The remaining power grid and communications networks in the USVI went down.

Maria was the strongest storm to hit Puerto Rico since 1928. Her maximum sustained winds of 155 mph barreled into Yabucoa in southeastern Puerto Rico just after 6 a.m. on September 20th. Her winds were so powerful, they destroyed the National Weather Service radar installation in San Juan. Maria inundated Puerto Rico with 20–35 inches of rain and a storm surge of 6-9 feet, causing catastrophic flooding and island-wide flash flood alerts. Power and communications were knocked out across Puerto Rico, leaving over 3.5 million residents in the dark.

Both territories remained under 24-hour curfew for weeks after the storms. The severely damaged power grids would take four months to restore in the USVI. Over half of Puerto Rico is still without electricity and communications to this day.

Plantain fields in Moca, PR, damaged by Hurricane Maria (photo by Michelle Catoni, Oct 6, 2017)The storm caused unimaginable damage to agriculture across the region. Hurricane Maria wiped out 80 percent of Puerto Rico’s crop value, causing a loss of $780 million in agriculture yields according to preliminary PRDA estimates. Plantain, banana, and coffee crops were the hardest hit. Livestock farmers suffered significant losses too, losing animals, buildings, feed and more.

Our Caribbean Area USDA family was impacted like everyone else, but we are working hard to help our fellow farmers, businesses and citizens. Many of our USDA offices sustained damage. The Corozal Field Office was too damaged to occupy. To date, some field office still do not have reliable communications, and the Mayagüez Field Office is still running on backup generators.

HURRICANE HEROES & STORM STORIES

Hurricane Emergency Relief & Recovery Aid

USDA Assistance to Areas Hit by Hurricanes Irma & Maria

USDA agencies provide technical and financial resources to farmers, ranchers and forest landowners. The resources listed below include programs for disaster assistance, environmental conservation and economic development in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Información sobre los recursos técnicos y financieros que ofrecen las agencias del USDA para agricultores, ganaderos y dueños de fincas privadas. Los recursos aquí listados incluyen programas de asistencia por desastres, para la conservación ambiental y el desarrollo económico de las áreas rurales de Puerto Rico y las Islas Vírgenes de E.E.U.U.

HOW TO APPLY FOR ASSISTANCE

First step - Register with FEMA:

  • Register online at DisasterAssistance.gov, download the FEMA app, or call 800-621-3362 for voice, 711, or Video Relay Service. Survivors who are deaf, hard of hearing or who have difficulty speaking and use a TTY, should call 800-462-7585 directly. The same number can be used for 711, VRS and other relay services.

Help with SBA Loans:

  • The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)offers low-interest disaster loans to help homeowners, renters, businesses, and private nonprofits replace lost or disaster-damaged personal property. Disaster loans cover losses not fully compensated by insurance or other recoveries and do not duplicate benefits of other agencies or organizations.

Contact U.S. Small Business Administration’s Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center:

Storm-blasted tamarind tree on Mr. Clevan Roberts farm on St. Croix's west end, surrounded by the debris of his home destroyed by Hurricane Maria.

Information guides: Taking care of your farm or home after a hurricane / Guías Informativas: Manejo De La Finca y del Hogar Post-Hucarán
ENGLISH Information for farmers and families affected by hurricanes in the US Caribbean. ESPAÑOL Información para agricultores y familias afectadas por huracanes en el Caribe.

More Information

A structure destroyed by a landslide near Utuado, PR. The town is located in one of the areas where Maria caused the highest concentration of landslides.