"Thousands Could Die" - Puerto Rico Scrambles To Evacuate River Valley As Dam Fails

Days after Hurricane Maria passed over the island and made its way west toward the Dominican Republican, Puerto Rico is still struggling with the initial response to the storm – rescuing people stranded in remote villages, and moving thousands into government shelters. Meanwhile the island's first responders are making due without electricity, gas or cell phone service after the storm dealt a knockout blow to its infrastructure.

In what was perhaps the most destructive blow to the island’s aging infrastructure, the NWS warned Friday that the Guajataca Dam in northwest Puerto Rico would soon fail, prompting the agency to issue a flash flood emergency warning for Isabela and Quebradillas municipalities. Now, authorities are scrambling to evacuate the residents of the river valley below the dam before their communities are entirely submurged. If the authorities don't act quickly, "thousands could die" one official in charge of the rescue response said.

According to federal reservoir data, the lake behind the dam, Lago de Guajataca, rose more than three feet between Tuesday and Wednesday, when the storm was still directly over the island. More recent data were unavailable. With floodwaters gushing into the Guajataca river valley, Reuters reports that emergency officials were scrambling Friday and Saturday to evacuate its nearly 70,000 residents before their villages have been completely submerged.

Video published by CBS shows waters gushing over the top of the 90-year-old dam, sending a wall of water racing into the valley below.

The National Weather Service warned of "imminent failure" and urged residents in the area to "move to higher ground now."

The evacuation of the valley is perhaps the most high-stakes rescue effort of the past week, according to  Abner Gomez, executive director of Puerto Rico's emergency management agency. Gomez said Friday that the dam's floodgates suffered mechanical damage during the storm, which made it impossible for authorities to open and let out normal water currents.

He added that "there is no way to fix it" right now considering the conditions and said if the dam tops over or fails structurally, "thousands of people could die."

The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, which operates the dam, says that the failure is already causing flash flooding downstream. The dam lies across the Guajataca River to form a reservoir that can hold roughly 11 billion gallons of water.

According to Weather.com, local media have reported that residents of one small community near the dam are refusing to evacuate, forcing authorities to invoke a law that allows responders to evacuate children and the elderly in an emergency.

The latest crisis comes as the death toll on Puerto Rico rose to 21 on Friday, when authorities said eight people had died in Tao Baha 30 miles from San Juan, where more than 4,000 people have been rescued from floodwaters.

Meanwhile, some shelters are running out of food and other essential supplies, creating a situation that the island’s governor, Ricard Rossello, described as a “humanitarian emergency.”

Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico early Wednesday as a powerful Category 4 hurricane with 155 mph winds - the first Category 4 to hit the island since 1932. The storm wiped out the island's power grid and dumped 20 to 30 inches of rain in 24 hours, with some areas seeing as much as 40 inches. The storm could leave most of the island without power for weeks – or possibly up to six months in some areas.


kommissar Joe Trader Sat, 09/23/2017 - 18:18 Permalink

i've really enjoyed watching juan's coverage of this, particularly the way he openly mocks the idiot mainstream reporters and their asinine, irrelevant, and slanted questions.  he does have a leg up coverage wise when he can take us up in the mighty luscombe.  

In reply to by Joe Trader

Winston Churchill toady Sat, 09/23/2017 - 12:17 Permalink

30 day correction Notice is standard in Florida, then a daily fine which varies by county and/or municipality.Either the local gestapo didn't know the law, or the homeowner misinterpreted him coming back inweek to issue a formal Notice.Thats the law,in the land of the fee, home of the slaves,in the Florida low security Federal prison complex.

In reply to by toady

FoggyWorld Winston Churchill Sat, 09/23/2017 - 13:42 Permalink

But after a disaster it takes forever to get the help you need to clean off the rubble.  FEMA doesn't do that sort of work so it falls to the homeowner who relies on friends and family or if lucky, can find someone with a truck and pay to have it hauled away.After Sandy, it took several YEARS to clean up and there are still five years later, problems where the owners walked and left everything behind.

In reply to by Winston Churchill

MsCreant Winston Churchill Sat, 09/23/2017 - 13:59 Permalink

It was government overreach for sure.  I would have flipped out on them and maybe been arrested. I am not always good at holding my tongue when I should.I was born and raised in Florida and I asked a relative in Palm Beach County about this and while she does not support it, she also understood some of the "why" which I have seen no one discuss because it is politically incorrect. She said that the immigrants, legal, illegal, it does not matter, don't "know better" many times. They don't know that they are supposed to repair the damage, to report the downed powerline in their back yard, to turn off the gas main, etc. Creates safety issues. She thinks officials are stuck in a hard spot with this one, they can't do their job and not look bad, and if they don't go out and find this stuff quick, they get blamed too.And she hates the gov. so that she would defend this says something. This "Noticing" was done in some counties, and not others, if you follow me. It was not done in Palm Beach. 

In reply to by Winston Churchill

Ilmarinen Sat, 09/23/2017 - 11:50 Permalink

Reminders that our comforts can be wiped away in an instant are sobering.  I hope these people are able to recover their lives soon.Fortunately, we can always just print more and/or count on America's greatest friend and ally for support.

Muppet Sat, 09/23/2017 - 11:54 Permalink

Speaker Paul Ryan will lead the charge (again) to backstop and help PR.  Recall, Ryan was the one to lead and pass the bill that US taxpayers will backstop Puerto Rico muni bonds.   Ryan did however appoint a blue ribbon team of experts that Ryan said would ensure PR would not default and thus US taxpayers would never have to worry.

lincolnsteffens Buckaroo Banzai Sat, 09/23/2017 - 12:28 Permalink

I was in PR for 3 weeks about 50 years ago. Most of it was beautiful and rural. I didn't visit the slums on the edge of San Juan. The only strange custom that surprised me was that just about everybody dropped small trash on the streets and sidewalks in a suburb of San Juan. It wasn't that they were slobs as workers came through early every day leaving it all clean. It was sort of a make-work job. 

In reply to by Buckaroo Banzai

Thethingreenline Sat, 09/23/2017 - 12:04 Permalink

TTGL has reviewed this situation,
Houston, Florida, PR, pensions shortfalls,

The logical solution is institute a 1% national sales tax to fund these operations. The resources that would be marshaled would be enormous. The re build of the infrastructure would create millions of jobs. Make the re build of PR funds contingent upon US workers re building their re are logical solutions to these problems, time to make lemonade out of a lemon!

2banana Sat, 09/23/2017 - 12:14 Permalink

Plenty of money for insane public union pensions.No money for infrastructure.It is a hard lesson.“Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.”  -- Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack 

Antifaschistische 2banana Sat, 09/23/2017 - 12:41 Permalink

Public Sector organizations from the smallest local muni to the Feds, have become giant self promoting collections of parasites.  As parasites they protect each other...they hand out small social favors to justify their existence.   We don't need 2/3rds of all public sector employees.  But once in your career, you get to the point where you realize, if I can just stay here 8 more years and cash out my retirement for $800,000 your focus changes.  At this point, you do everything to protect your payout, and very little for the public you serve.

In reply to by 2banana

Anonymous (not verified) Sat, 09/23/2017 - 12:54 Permalink

 In June, appliances,  faucets, and vehicles in my neighborhood,  including planes, started singing crazy songs that make zero sense.One of the songs that the air conditioners in my neighborhood started singing is Apple's learning how to fly. Obviously, that makes absolutely no sense what so ever.I believe that Apple computers, may possibly have taken over. Elon Musk has also expressed concerns over the singularity and the possibility of technology becoming independent and removed of the control of human beings.Another theory that I have is that it is from the result of cell phone and Wi-Fi  signals, which are microwaves and could theoretically transmit these messages, since radio waves are a type of microwave.There is a cell tower in my neighborhood, and I do not have WiFi, yet, I am able to  join many networks from my property, if I were to request it,  and if my neighbors were to accept my request, which I have never done.The cell tower in my neighborhood  is owned by American Transmission Company.This is extremely hazardous, and is polluting the air with deadly microwave radiation. I have rejected WiFi, yet, I am bombarded by it.If I wind up with a glio-blastoma multi-form brain tumor, it will be their fault, as well as the WiFi providers.The irony is that the idiot tech terrorists, fail to realize that microwave radiation is completely deadly. They are obsessed with CO2 and turn all of us into Pepe le frog, or in my case la frog. ( I also  prefer renewable energy, but at least God granted me the capacity to think critically, logically, and rationally, unlike the tech terrorists, who are perfectly content with CO2 free deadly microwave radiation. )Warning to WiFi  providers AT&T,  Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Time Warner Cable, and American Transmission Company I will sue the mother fucking daylights out of you if WiFi signals are still on my property on Monday, September 23, 2017!If there were to be a single provider, the microwave radiation would be cut to about 1/4:of what it currently is. Additionally, I am in a single family home. People in office buildings and multi-unit residential buildings are exposed to much higher levels of microwave radiation. Ordinarily, I oppose monopolies, but in this case, since all cell phone providers are required to have signals all over the place, in the interest of human, animal, and plant health, a single provider would be a humane and environmentally friendly policy. Another alternative is to simply have the providers sharing the signals, which would drastically reduce costs for all providers, still reduce microwave radiation, and should also reduce costs to consumers.  

Ms No A. Boaty Sat, 09/23/2017 - 18:27 Permalink

It sounds like he is allowing himself to go down the rabbit hole but it could also be a form of synesthesia. "Synesthesia is a neurological condition [allegedly/assumed] in which a person experiences "crossed" responses to stimuli. It occurs when stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway (e.g., hearing) leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway (e.g., vision). About 5 percent of the population has synesthesia, and over 60 types have been reported. The most common form of synesthesia is grapheme-color synesthesia, in which people perceive individual letters of the alphabet and numbers to be "shaded" or "tinged" with a color. Other synesthetes commingle sounds with scents, sounds with shapes, or shapes with flavors."Long story short it's where people see sounds, hear colors, taste vibrations, etc.  They tend to be highly intelligent and often artistically inclined.  Maybe he is hearing EM frequencies.  Stranger things have happened.  Some people can also see slightly into infrared.  It's most likely batshit crazy though.  (-; 

In reply to by A. Boaty