Byline: "Puerto Rico Greets the New Year with Hope and Frustration"
SAN JUAN. December 29, 1998.
According to the government, Puerto Rico
is well on its way to recovering from the damages received when
Hurricane Georges passed over the island more than three months
ago. Many islanders tell a different story. Authorities declare
that water and electrical services, even in remote parts of the
island, have been restored. All roads are once again passable,
with the exception of several in the interior mountains where
bridges were swept away. However, residents in a number of isolated
communities angrily deny the water company's claims, and motorists,
particularly tourists, continue to complain about a lack of road
signs at major intersections and exits throughout the island.
In related tourism developments, owners of several small hotels
along the coast are asking for government help because the beaches
where they are located remain eroded. They are seeing a decrease
in tourism this season as a result. Behind the scenes, workers
at El Conquistador Resort have been working furiously, and quietly,
to repair Las Casitas' cliff-side homes, badly damaged during
Hurricane Georges. Resort officials say they anticipate an excellent
1998-99 tourist season. Visiting hikers in El Yunque are disappointed
to learn that several trails remain closed because of the dozens
of mudslides that moved tons of soil and vegetation down the
mountainsides and across the trails.
Bananas and plantains are in short supply on the island, to
the dismay of health-minded mothers and the delight of some
children. Distributors have had to import fruit from the Dominican
Republic, which was not as severely affected by Hurricane Georges.
Many poultry owners have gone into bankruptcy; and small, white
eggs (reportedly frozen in transport) have been imported from
the United States. Although the government aid comes slowly,
many homeowners are seen replacing shattered windows and repairing
roofs. Hundreds of people without homes remain in shelters.
The dengue epidemic officials feared has not materialized, although
doctors are reporting an increase in the number of cases.
Closed Roads Create Long Commutes
Last week's rains caused a mudslide in the mountains near Jayuya
that resulted in the indefinite closing of a local road. Irate
residents, who now must drive an extra half hour on winding
lanes to reach town, blame the Department of Transportation
and Public Works for not shoring up the steep embankment on
the road's north side, as they have repeatedly asked them to
do in the past. Department officials counter that the soil in
this region became unstable after Hurricane Georges dumped record
amounts of rain. They claim they cannot be responsible for acts
of nature. Motorists are urged to be patient.
Forest Inhabitants Survive
The forests have made an impressive comeback. Three months ago,
they looked grey and exposed. Once again they are awash in green.
Scientists explain what has happened. After the hurricane, leaf
litter and other materials began to decompose. The sunlight
is able to reach the forest floor, and the floor became much
like the upper canopy in the amount of sun it received. Temperatures
rose and humidity fell. These changes meant certain death for
shade and humidity-loving plants but abundant life for light-hungry
plants. Although, roads and trails have yet to be repaired,
the forests themselves are well on their way to recovery. In
the same way, some animals have died because of the drier conditions
and diminished food supply, while others have flourished.
Scientists were especially worried about the
bird community. Of the birds that survived the high winds and
rains of the hurricane, and most of them did, the birds that
eat fruits have suffered more and recovered more slowly than
birds that eat insects. This is because most fruits were stripped
from the plants by the hurricane, and it takes time for new
stocks to grow back. Meanwhile, many insects multiplied rapidly
after the storm.
- Describe the economic impacts that Hurricanes Georges has had on Puerto Rico.
- How are plants and animals being affected three months after the hurricane struck Puerto Rico?
- What lithospheric effects continue to be seen three months after Hurricane Georges struck Puerto Rico?