All Of Puerto Rico Has Power Now, According To Local Officials

“The first thing I will do is give thanks to God."

On Tuesday, nearly a full year after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, Jazmín Méndez got her power back. The 44-year-old stay-at-home mother is the very last residential customer of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to have her power restored, according to The New York Times.

 Local officials told The Associated Press that all of Puerto Rico has power as of Tuesday, although some residents' homes are still too damaged to be put back on the grid. The news marks a major milestone for an island that's struggled to recover from a hurricane that may have killed more than 1,000 people.


"The first thing I will do is give thanks to God," Méndez told The New York Times. "At first, I fell into a depression. Now we've gotten so used to it, that I'm sure if another hurricane comes, we'll pass the test."

Méndez's story is a portrait of the hardships many families faced in the wake of the hurricane. As reported by The Times, along with taking out her power, the storm destroyed the pipes that brought fresh water to her rural home. Her roof blew off, and now leaks. A generator she used for power was stolen. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) rejected an application for financial aid because of issues with the deed on her house. Then, as if things couldn't get any worse, she got a waterborne kidney infection from drinking rainwater, according to The New York Times account. She spent three months in the hospital.

Since the hurricane swept through the island, Americans and the world have watched much of the recovery from afar. A viral video of a school getting its power back showed the struggle many Puerto Ricans were facing to just live their normal lives. FEMA, which came under fire for its handling and preparation for the disaster, spoke to A Plus about the lessons the agency learned from responding to Hurricane Maria. 

"The hurricane hits, and the entire power structure goes down," Marty Bahamonde, the director of FEMA's Disaster Operations Division, recalled in February. "The towers that run the lines were crumpled like folding cards. It was after a couple days that we truly understood the magnitude of this disaster... I think it's fair to say the worst case scenario happened."

The federal government has now spent $3.2 billion replacing 52,000 electrical poles and stringing together 6,000 miles of the electrical wire during relief efforts. Those efforts have been described as historic, unprecedented and far-reaching by FEMA and other government agencies involved in the restoration of the island. Still, it took this long to bring power back to Méndez.

While she's still concerned about the future holds for her country, Méndez told The New York Times she's relieved not to have to pay $50 a week to run a generator anymore. She's also happy that her children can use their PlayStation again and will no longer have to go to bed when the sun goes down. 

Cover image via RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP/Getty Images.


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