Hurricane Maria, the most powerful storm to hit Puerto Rico in more than eighty years, flooded streets, downed trees, caused landslides, and left almost the entire island without power as it moved through the US territory on Thursday, September 21.
According to Danica Coto of the Associated Press, the hurricane was a category four when it struck Puerto Rico with 155 mph winds. Tourism company operator Adrian Pacheco said, “I think people didn’t expect the storm to reach the point that it did. Since Irma never really happened, they thought Maria would be the same.”
While Irma knocked out power to at least one million Puerto Rican residents, Maria caused an island-wide outage, nearly destroying its energy grid, and, according to the New York Times, at least ten deaths. Engineers are also warning about the potential collapse of the ninety-year-old Guajataca Dam in the Northwest corner of the island, which could burst at any moment, prompting the government to evacuate nearby neighborhoods.
Puerto Rican governor Ricardo Rosselló appealed to New York governor Andrew M. Cuomo, who said he witnessed “breathtaking” devastation in Puerto Rico during a visit to the island on Friday. Cuomo pledged to send about 240 National Guardsmen and state troopers to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in the coming days to help with recovery efforts. In addition, the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration said four thousand members of the US Army Reserves have been deployed to bring aid to the island.
Roselló also met with more than fifty Puerto Rican officials, including mayors and other representatives, on Saturday. Many reported incidents of looting of homes and stores in their communities.
Klaus Biesenbach, director of MoMA PS1, told artforum.com that a Facebook group has been created to help gather information and reach people in order to exchange whereabouts and communicate what donations are needed.
Among the donation centers in New York are the Casabe Senior Houses at 121st Street and Lexington Avenue in Manhattan; El Maestro, Inc., on Southern Boulevard in the Bronx; and Paul’s Parish Hall at 334 South Fifth Street in Brooklyn. Among the items considered necessities for those impacted by the storm are solar-powered chargers, lanterns, radios, gas stoves, headlamps, batteries, baby items, and USB car chargers, as well as medications for asthma and allergies, immune system boosters such as Emergen-C, and equipment for cleaning up debris such as masks and gloves. To give money directly to a charity providing aid to the island, people can donate to the Hurricane Maria Community Relief & Recovery Fund here.
Among the arts institutions that will remain closed until further notice are the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico and the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico in San Juan, which issued the following statement: “Keeping in mind the safety of our visitors and the work team before the passage of Hurricane Maria through Puerto Rico, MAPR will remain closed for the next few days. Please, we urge you to make the necessary arrangements for your safety and that of your family and to shake hands with whoever needs it.”