SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Jorge Ortiz, a 50-year-old construction worker, was taking no chances as Tropical Storm Dorian approached Puerto Rico on Tuesday and threatened to brush past the island’s southwest coast at near-hurricane strength.
Wiping sweat from his brow, Ortiz climbed up a shaky ladder under the punishing morning sun and tied down pieces of zinc that now serve as his roof because Hurricane Maria ripped the second floor off his house when the Category 4 storm hit in September 2017.
He was forced to rebuild everything himself and finished just three months ago, and said he received no assistance from the local or federal government.
“They told me I didn’t qualify because it was a total loss,” he said, shaking his head as he added that he was wary about Dorian. “I’m worried that despite all this sacrifice, I’ll lose it again.”
It’s a concern shared by many across the U.S. territory, where some 30,000 homes still have blue tarps as roofs and where the 3.2 million inhabitants depend on a shaky power grid that Maria destroyed and remains prone to outages even in the slightest of rain storms.
Dorian was located about 415 miles (665 kilometers) southeast of Ponce, Puerto Rico, late Tuesday morning. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said it had maximum sustained winds near 50 mph (85 kph) and was forecast to strengthen during the next 48 hours before passing near or south of the U.S. territory on Wednesday as it moves west-northwest at 13 mph (20 kph).
“The biggest problem will be the rain,” said Roberto García, a forecaster with the National Meteorological Service in Puerto Rico.