N.H. Resident Unable To Contact Daughter In Puerto Rico After Hurricane Maria

Sep 25, 2017

Hurricane Maria makes landfall in Puerto Rico.
Credit NOAA Satellites

A New Hampshire mother is still trying to get ahold of her daughter after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico last week.

Valerie Mowbray, from the town of Holderness, has been unable to make contact with her daughter Moria since the category 5 hurricane hit the Island of Vieques.

Outside of a few Satellite phones, there is no way for those stranded to communicate with anyone off the island.

Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with Mowbray by phone on Monday.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity.

I can't imagine how you must be feeling right now. When was the last time that you heard from your daughter?

I heard from her late Tuesday. The hurricane hit in the very early hours of Wednesday morning.

Moria Nickerson and her boyfriend, Ben Elliot, live on Vieques Island, Puerto Rico year round. Nickerson's mother, Valerie Mowbray, hasn't been able to reach them since Hurricane Maria struck the island.

Your daughter, Moria, and her boyfriend live on the island year round. This is an island that's just off the coast of Puerto Rico. How were they preparing for the hurricane when you talked to them?

Well, they live across the street from the beach, which is a very low lying area. So they planned to leave their home and to travel uphill to a house on higher ground to be safe. The house they were evacuating to was also a concrete house, which of course would fare better in a hurricane. So they were filling you know coolers with water. They were gathering their food and any kind of important papers and their precious belongings. Then they have three dogs that they also were bringing with them.

How many people are on Vieques?

It's a population of about 9,000 people, about the size of Nantucket is how I like to describe it.

And it's a bit isolated from Puerto Rico, is it not?

Yes it's on the east coast of Puerto Rico. There’s two islands that are part of Puerto Rico, Vieques and Culebra off the east coast.

Now have you heard anything from any authorities as to the fate of the island right now?

There is a very big problem with communication. All the cell towers of course were knocked out and there's no power. So Vieques also because it's isolated, and there really has been very little word about what has been going on around the island. There were two satellite phones on the island. So we're getting very sporadic 10 second messages from people here and there over the week. And they're basically saying help. You know we have no water, no power. You know there's no fuel on the island. The island depends on ferry service for its food and gas, and the last ferry actually left last Monday morning at 11:00 a.m. So now we're looking at a solid week that the island has not received supplies. And without gas of course there can be no cleanup, because you know the trucks that have the gas in them, when they run out of gas they become useless. And then you know the food supply is dwindling rapidly and there is no water, which is just really very scary.

But to be clear, you haven't talked to your daughter or heard about her or her boyfriend at this point?

No we have not. Very many people are waiting to hear. There's no way to know if they're safe or not.

Are you talking with other people that have relatives on the island via social media, or on the phone or any other way?

Absolutely, I’m completely plugged in most of the time just scanning and looking for any kind of information, as many other people are. There’s a long list of people that are unaccounted for, and you know there's a very, very small list of people that have been confirmed safe. So now we're waiting.

I can't imagine how that must feel. I know with Hurricane Harvey hitting you Texas, and of course Hurricane Irma with Florida, FEMA and other relief organizations are stretched thin right now across the U.S. Has the island received any attention that you know of?

What has happened is Puerto Rico, you know the main island, also was slammed by this hurricane. And what often happens is the needs of the main island are met first. And you know we’re just trying to bring awareness to the fact that you know please don't forget these two little islands. They're completely isolated and their situation is a little different because you know nobody's flying in to see them. Right now, from what I know there has not been any kind of ferry cargo, anything, coming in with supplies.