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