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Hurricane Irene pummels Puerto Rico; could reach U.S.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 22nd, 2011
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Hurricane Irene, the first hurricane of the 2011 season, has pummeled Puerto Rico with 75 miles per hour winds and steady rainfall. The U.S. National Hurricane Center say there is widespread tree and power line damage on the island, with more than 800,000 homes without power. Miraculously, no deaths on account of the wild weather have been reported thus far.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Radar surveillance indicated "winds to near major hurricane strength are now occurring in the higher elevations of the interior mountainous regions" of the island, it said.

Irene remained on a course that could take it to Florida later in the week.

In addition to a hurricane warning for Puerto Rico, Vieques and Culebra, a hurricane watch was issued for the north coast of Haiti from Le Mole, St. Nicholas eastward to The Dominican Republic border and the central Bahamas.

The Northern Dominican Republic is preparing for Irene, even as tracking projections suggested the storm would just brush the island. Agencies are turning their attentions to evacuating people who live on small hills and in sub-standard housing.

"We really have to work with these people," Ramón said. "We have a lot of hills here, and a lot of houses in poor condition," Moraima Ramón, civil defense manager of Samaná, a tourist town in the northeast part of the Dominican Republic said.

Life is getting back to normal in Puerto Rico. San Juan's major shopping mall reopened, despite dozens of impassable roads and several flooded communities. At least three rivers had burst their banks. The Plata River was most worrisome, authorities said.

"As long as it is still raining in the mountains, we're still worried," Gov. Luis Fortuño told newspaper reporters. "We are monitoring the situation."

Several communities were cut off due to rising waters or cut off roads. "We have a collapsed road in Viví, which is in the city of Utuado. We're trying to get at least temporary access for the 800 people who live there," Emergency operations Director Mauricio Rivera said.

More than half the island has no electricity and 28 percent were without running water, he said. The island of Vieques remains completely without power.

"I call what we had an 'almost-hurricane,'" Rivera said. "It brought a lot of rain, a lot of wind, and quite a few electrical poles fell and so did trees. The situation is returning to normal. It's raining, but mostly just drizzling.

"We thank God that there are no deaths or injuries to report."

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