Hamilton cou­ple safe at home af­ter fac­ing two hur­ri­canes in Puerto Rico

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - NEWS - L.A. Parker Columnist L.A. Parker is a Tren­to­nian columnist. Reach him at la­parker@ tren­to­nian.com. Fol­low him on Twit­ter@ la­parker6.

Pe­dro Me­d­ina said Hur­ri­cane Maria winds pounded Puerto Rico with such force that at times the 140 miles per hour air move­ments screamed.

“It sounded like demons howl­ing, high pitched and scary. The wind growled like a mon­ster. It gave us chills,” Me­d­ina, a Mercer County un­der sher­iff said.

Me­d­ina and his wife, Les­lie, re­turned home to Hamilton Twp. on Sun­day af­ter a Puerto Rico visit to see his mother, Car­men, in­cluded weather events with Hur­ri­canes Irma and Maria.

Me­d­ina and rel­a­tives waited out Maria in Arecibo, a mu­nic­i­pal­ity on the north­ern coast of Puerto Rico, on the shores of the At­lantic Ocean.

Arecibo lies north of Utu­ado and Ciales; east of Hatillo; and west of Barceloneta and Flor­ida.

The mu­nic­i­pal­ity of 96,000 ci­ti­zens rests about 50 miles west of San Juan, the cap­i­tal city.

Arecibo is also known as La Villa del Capitán Cor­rea (Cap­tain Cor­rea’s Villa) af­ter the Puerto Ri­can hero Cap­tain An­to­nio de los Reyes Cor­rea of the Spanish Army, who drove off a Bri­tish Navy in­va­sion in 1702 by am­bush­ing forces led by rear-ad­mi­ral Wil­liam Whet­stone.

Me­d­ina and his wife were in Arecibo when Hur­ri­cane Irma brushed Puerto Rico dur­ing late Septem­ber.

“But Hur­ri­cane Maria, she was a mon­ster. It hit the is­land head on with a force that was hard to be­lieve. My mom lives in a con­crete home, so, we had no fear about the house be­ing blown away,” Me­d­ina said.

“We were afraid of the win­dows shat­ter­ing and all the water. At times it felt like the wind would break the glass.”

The Me­d­i­nas con­sid­ered se­cur­ing fam­ily mem­bers, par­tic­u­larly his mother, then re­turn­ing home be­fore Maria landed.

“In the end, we were happy that we stayed,” Me­d­ina said.

“I would not say we were stuck. In fact, be­ing in Arecibo with my mother turned out to be a bless­ing. Yes, we were afraid but it was won­der­ful to be with fam­ily, with peo­ple we love. The hur­ri­cane put a lot of things in per­spec­tive.”

Me­d­ina said the day Maria came ashore pro­duced hun­dreds of peeks out­side win­dows.

“It rained so hard that vis­i­bil­ity was min­i­mal. Palm trees were bend­ing side­ways while some trees and tele­phone poles snapped,” Me­d­ina re­called.

Hur­ri­cane Maria’s slow move­ment dumped ma­jor amounts of water and de­liv­ered an en­tire day of Cat­e­gory 4 winds.

“The storm crawled along at nine miles per hour, that’s what made this hur­ri­cane so dam­ag­ing,” Me­d­ina, sound­ing like a me­te­o­rol­o­gist, ex­plained.

“And then? To­tal calm as the eye of the hur­ri­cane passed over Arecibo. My mother thought the storm was over. She was shout­ing “Praise God”, not un­der­stand­ing more winds and rain were on the way,” Me­d­ina said.

“Noth­ing but de­struc­tion af­ter­ward. In­cred­i­bly sad to see all the dam­age. Ev­ery­thing looked and felt so hope­less,” Me­d­ina said.

“It felt like noth­ing was get­ting done. No gas. No elec­tric­ity. And no water.”

Frus­tra­tion mounted as Puerto Ri­cans com­plained about a 1920 Jones Act which re­quired ship­ments from U.S. ports to be car­ried out by U.S. ves­sels and U.S. crew mem­bers.

“There were ships loaded with re­lief sup­plies that could not not dock in Puerto Rico. The pol­i­tics were crazy and pre­vented im­me­di­ate re­lief. Pres­i­dent Trump fi­nally lifted the Jones Act. That helped but govern­ment of­fi­cials never seemed pre­pared for Hur­ri­cane Maria,” Me­d­ina said.

Me­d­ina said he felt up­lifted in Puerto Rico by an event in Tren­ton.

“We re­ceived pho­tos from dif­fer­ent re­lief ef­forts hap­pen­ing. I could not be­lieve how the peo­ple of Tren­ton and Mercer County re­sponded with re­lief aid, es­pe­cially the one at Colum­bus Park,” Me­d­ina praised.

Me­d­ina and his wife fi­nally found a flight out of San Juan. They ar­rived in Mi­ami last Thurs­day then came home on Sun­day.

“I’m here phys­i­cally but my mind is back in Puerto Rico with my fam­ily and ev­ery­one else who is go­ing through this ter­ri­ble time,” Me­d­ina ad­mit­ted.

“We watched some im­prove­ment tak­ing place be­fore we left but there were still towns that au­thor­i­ties had not reached. It’s go­ing to take a long time to re­cover.”

“Still, we count our bless­ings although I can still hear that wind. It’s a sound I will never for­get.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Mercer County Un­der Sher­iff Pe­dro Me­d­ina cleans up af­ter Hur­ri­cane Maria snapped a tree and left other de­bris at his mother’s home in Arecibo, Puerto Rico.

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