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Puerto Rico Residents Skeptical Of Hurricane Preparedness As Season Set To Start


Puerto Rico is gearing up for the Atlantic hurricane season, which officially begins in two weeks. Officials say they are well-prepared this time should the island get hit. But across Puerto Rico, residents still recovering from Hurricane Maria have their doubts. NPR's Adrian Florido reports.

ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: Carlos Acevedo heads Puerto Rico's emergency management agency. He knows a lot of people have their doubts. And he acknowledges that before Maria, his agency really did not take updates to its hurricane plan seriously.

CARLOS ACEVEDO: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: "Every year," he says, "we would rip out the first and last pages of our plan, replace them with two new pages, sign them and call it a new plan." "This year," he says, "the plan has been completely rewritten."

ACEVEDO: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: "Our response is guaranteed to be different next time," he says. "We're basing it on the best possible lesson we could have had. That was Maria." Officials here say they're making big changes. They're dramatically increasing warehouse space to store emergency supplies. The supplies are being spread across the island. Generators have been prepositioned, satellite communication systems have been installed at police and fire stations and hospitals across the island, and large-scale drills will start soon. Rafaela Serrano she heard all about those plans on TV. She's not convinced.

RAFAELA SERRANO: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: "Just look at what my house looks like," she says. Her roof is gone. The gaping hole is covered by a blue tarp installed by FEMA.

SERRANO: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: "A lot of people haven't fixed their houses yet," she says. "No, we're not prepared." Serrano says it's taken her eight months to save enough to rebuild her house. She has the money in hand, but she's decided to hold off on repairs until this next hurricane season ends - just in case, she says. Adrian Florido, NPR News, Caguas, Puerto Rico.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Adrian Florido
Adrian Florido is a national correspondent for NPR covering race and identity in America.