The New Hampshire Department of Transportation sent a crew of workers to Puerto Rico in early October to assist with the recovery of infrastructure damaged by Hurricane Maria.
Most of those crew members are headed home within the next week, but Maggie Darcy has decided to stay at least an extra 30 days to continue providing aid. Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with Darcy by phone about her experience in Puerto Rico so far.
(Editor's note: this transcript has been edited lightly for clarity.)
You’ve seen the devastation of the hurricane in Puerto Rico firsthand. What are conditions like on the island? What were they like when you first arrived, and where are they now?
When we first arrived on the island, there were some areas that were hit pretty hard. My job here is to go around to regional station areas where the Puerto Rican National Guard is, and that did entail some days trying to attempt to get up into the mountains in the earlier days. And day by day, it may not have been possible due to flooding and landslides. But as the weeks are going on, we definitely are getting more road access to areas. And things are improving, you know, the power's coming about. People are coming about a little bit more spritely. So things are slowly improving.
So you've been spending some time in those areas that are little more rural and harder to get to up in the hills and mountains. What's that been like?
First off, it certainly isn't like driving in New Hampshire. It's more like a topical Safari ride. But like I said, landslides were common. We would stop for a few minutes and actually get food and water out to those workers that were trying to clear the roadways, brush the pass. There are actually always stations out there. So if they do get floodwaters or more landslides in particular areas, they're ready to act because they know that people are constantly trying to travel to the mountains.
There are very remote areas—a lot of agricultural, coffee, plantains, whatever fruits and vegetables that they're growing there. So it’s very rural. It's a big difference when you’re coming down off those mountains and getting into San Juan or Ponce. Not to say that some areas, or suburbs of city locations are not also devastated by a lot of rain, water resources and power resources, it's just like two different worlds, completely different worlds going up and down those mountains on the daily.
But I definitely see the urban and suburban trying to get into the Wal-Marts. They have the fuel now. They have some of the local restaurants. They’re getting in their water supply, and so those local facilities can start reboosting the economy here locally. It will take some time, a little more time for those really rural areas to come back at the level that they were. But it certainly isn’t the same lifestyle as in the urban areas.
Can you tell us what you and your fellow crewmembers are doing, what your goals are?
Our job is to every day go out to the regional station areas. It's basically where the distribution centers get food and water out the National Guard and State Guard, so they can deliver that food to local municipalities. My job was to make sure that the inventory counts for their needs and necessities for those guards, and if they needed something else, you know, it could be anything from a fork lift not operating, to they're interested in receiving more food and water, and they're stabilizing and they would like to get an increase.
So can you give us kind of a barometer, a kind of a temperature of how people are feeling across the island? What were the range of emotions that you run into?
On a daily basis, generally I would say the majority of Puerto Rican people of the entire territory are very warm and welcoming. They understand that we're there to assist them in any way that we can. We do come across people like schoolteachers. I’ve come across police officers. I’ve come across just regular citizens, farmers that will come out, and they just want to share their grief or their stories. So we could be shedding a couple of tears out there, and telling them, you know, that what we're going to be there for them and try to assist them.