Nearly three weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the American Red Cross is working around the clock with government officials and disaster partners to help the hundreds of thousands of people on both island territories who are suffering right now.
Most people on the islands are living with no power and high temperatures. Thousands of homes have been affected, and officials estimate it could take at least six months until power is fully restored.
For Los Angeles Region Disaster Program Manager, Jon Brown, and Regional Program Specialist, Jennifer Dutton, heading into a storm ravaged area is just another part of the job. But, when Jennifer and Jon made the trip to St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands just days after Hurricane Irma made its way through the area, they had no idea this deployment would be one like no other.
Days after they arrived, word came from the National Hurricane Center that the U.S. Virgin Islands were in the path of another Category 4 storm, Hurricane Maria. And, as Maria arrived, Jennifer and Jon did everything they could to stay safe themselves, while continuing to do exactly what they were deployed to the island to do: alleviate human pain and suffering in the face of disaster.
With flood waters rising inside the middle school shelter, and moments that, “seemed like the roof would blow right off,” according to Jennifer, she did her best to sleep during the day so she could stay up all night with the storm, to help keep the people staying in the shelter as safe and as comfortable as possible.
For Jennifer, already being on the island for Irma relief efforts when Maria hit was a blessing. It allowed her to be one of the first Red Cross workers to head out into the most heavily affected communities with the food, water and supplies that many locals so desperately needed. “That is what I went there to do, and that is what makes me most proud today. The fact that I was able to make a positive impact on people's lives, people who had lost everything, people whose hope was only restored with the help of the Red Cross—that made it all worthwhile.”
In Puerto Rico, about 460 Red Cross workers are helping to reconnect families and distribute critical relief supplies, including some of the nearly 240 Red Cross workers currently deployed from the Los Angeles Region.