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Emergency Ripple Effects of Hurricane Maria

When you think about the effects of Hurricane Maria, the average person pictures strong winds, rain, surging oceans, and ruined lives. The main reason behind this is that the media highlighted these events, and innumerable news channels streamed the effects in real time 24 hours per day as hundreds of thousands of people looked for relief. The harsh reality of emergencies is that while these effects are devastating, the secondary, of ripple effect of a disaster this size like the effects on education, the health system, and housing are often as bad as the initial impact.

A large storm like Maria affects the Education System. It pushes populations around, and this movement has effects that are not considered. The added variable of the connections many in Puerto Rico have in The United States and the easy movement of people off island caused an impact on Mainland USA schools. Currently, mainland schools—especially those in Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas, and New York—are seeing a surge of new students as Puerto Rican residents relocate, with even more expected in the next few months.[1]

Another issue identified following Maria is impacts on the Metal Health System. The trauma suffered by many of the survivors from Puerto Rico. As the situation progresses and the weeks turn into days, the trauma hurricane survivors are experiencing will not go away. Trained and capable counselors and mental health workers will need to be available and actively work towards a mentally repairing the island.

While still too early to see the effects full force in Puerto Rico, after Hurricane Katrina, the Housing within New Orleans came to the forefront. After Katrina, widespread housing damage prevented residents’ returns: 71.5 percent of the 188,251 housing units in New Orleans were damaged, with 55.9 percent having major or severe damage. I suspect that the numbers within Puerto Rico will be similar. Without a place to return to, some people will never return.

There is no doubt that the initial effects of Hurricane Maria were devastating, but as we are looking at ways to respond, let’s remember that the ripple effects of the storm will also require our attention and are no less an emergency issue.


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