Less than two weeks ago, Hurricane Irma barreled through the Caribbean and parts of the US. Among the many islands affected were the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. At least four people were killed on the island of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. The territory suffered widespread infrastructural destruction, with torn off roofs, flattened houses, and battered landscapes. Representative Stacey Plaskett described St. John and St. Thomas, the two worst affected islands, as battle zones in the aftermath of the monster storm, and estimated that St. Thomas had lost 70 percent of its utility, while St. John lost all functionality.

Reeling from Irma

Over in Puerto Rico, residents were spared the brunt of the storm.

Hurricane Irma passed just north of the island, but still effected widespread infrastructural damage and left more than one million people without power. Recovery efforts are in full swing in both territories. Authorities in the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are still struggling to restore power to residents across the islands, with the Federal Emergency Management Agency(FEMA) working with both territories and their governors.

Bracing for Maria

Recovery, however, came to a grinding halt as news of a new storm came to light. Hurricane Maria strengthened from a category 1 to a category five storm with alarming quickness and had its sights set on the already battered islands. The National Hurricane Center warns of life-threatening storm surges of up to 11 feet, flash flooding, and heavy rainfall, and a hurricane warning is currently in effect for much of the Leeward Islands.

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Now, islands like Puerto Rico that escaped the brunt of Irma’s might must now prepare to take a direct hit from Maria, which will make landfall at category 4 strength or higher. The island of St. Croix in the Virgin Islands, currently being used as a staging ground for relief efforts in its sister isles, must also prepare. The White House has declared a state of emergency in the US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico’s governor has done the same for the Spanish-speaking American territory. Shelters are being erected, and FEMA stands ready to assist in the preparation, disaster relief, and any emergency measures needed.

Some small amount of comfort is to be had. Hurricane Maria is a much smaller storm than Hurricane Irma, which at its zenith was roughly 400 miles in diameter. In comparison, Maria’s hurricane-force winds will only extend 30 miles out from its center, and its cone of influence will, therefore, be smaller. This is, however, poor consolation for islands like the Commonwealth of Dominica.

Dominica bore the brunt of Maria’s force on September 18 and its Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, had to be rescued after winds tore off the roof of his residence.

In a season of hurricanes more proliferous than any in recent years, the United States is increasingly reminded of its territories in the Caribbean and its coastal states and must stand ready to aid and abet its citizens there in their time of most dire need.