Disaster Preparedness - Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands

Aerial view of wind damaged crops after a Hurricane

Though vulnerable to earthquakes, tsunamis, and wildfires, the major threat of disaster in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands comes from hurricanes, tropical storms, and drought. Hurricanes bring storm surge, heavy rainfall, flooding, landslides, extreme winds and tornadoes, and often cause extensive and catastrophic damage. Long term drought impacts crops and livestock, water supply, and increases the risk of wildfires.

Hurricanes and Tropical Storms

Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are still recovering from Hurricanes Irma, a category 5 storm that devastated the U.S. Virgin Islands and eastern areas of Puerto Rico on September 6, 2017, and Maria, a high end category 4 storm, which made landfall at Yabucoa in southeastern Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017. Hurricane Maria was the strongest storm to hit Puerto Rico since 1928.

Drought

Dry grass and low water in ponds.

From 2014 to 2016 Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands experienced extreme drought that also impacted much of the wider Caribbean. 2015 was the third driest period in Puerto Rico. Strict water restrictions were enforced, businesses temporarily closed, and crops and livestock were lost.

Trends and Outlook for 2019

With NOAA predicting a near-normal 2019 Atlantic hurricane season, and abnormally dry and moderate drought conditions affecting Puerto Rico, and abnormally dry drought conditions across the U.S. Virgin Islands (with lingering impacts from more intense drought earlier this year), being prepared for potential disasters can help improve the response, and also the recovery to such events.

The Fourth National Climate Assessment recently reported that "Extreme events pose significant risks to life, property, and economy in the Caribbean, and some extreme events, such as flooding and droughts, are projected to increase in frequency and intensity. Increasing hurricane intensity and associated rainfall rates will likely affect human health and well-being, economic development, conservation, and agricultural productivity. Increased resilience will depend on collaboration and integrated planning, preparation, and responses across the region."

Below are the latest resources to help you prepare for disasters, guide your response, and also to help in the recovery process.

Disaster Preparedness | Response | Recovery | Mitigation: