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CT’s Puerto Rican community keeping a close eye on Dorian

HARTFORD -- With a some 30,000 homes in Puerto Rico still having blue tarps, acting as roofs, following the devastation of Hurricane Maria two years ago, this week’s forecast is obviously frightening to them.

Connecticut’s Puerto Rican community is keeping a watchful eye on Tropical Storm Dorian’s path as a hurricane watch has been posted for Puerto Rico.

The talk of the Tuesday lunch hour at Hartford’s Aqui Me Quedo, a popular Puerto Rican restaurant, was about what Dorian would do.

Meanwhile, we actually called a Connecticut native, who now lives in Puerto Rico, about the vibe on the island.

“You see the anxiousness, even though we see that it’s not as strong as Maria, said Bridgeport native George Agosto, who has lived in Puerto Rico for the last 42 years.

And, what he has seen since Hurricane Maria absolutely amazed him.

“Three, four, five months, nine months, almost a year without lights and without water,” Agosto said of Maria’s aftermath.

His Hartford based niece heads up an organization that helped over 100 Puerto Rican families relocate temporarily to the Hartford area following Maria.

“We were able to cook by donations,” said Lilly Velez-Herrera, Founder &
CEO of Lilly Sin Barreras. “We were also able to help with other collaborators to find housing.”

Most of the more than 13,000 Puerto Rican refugees, that came to Connecticut,  following Maria have since returned to the island.

Velez-Herrera says her mother, brother and aunts and uncles all live in Puerto Rico and “they don’t want to leave the island.”

But, with the latest threat provided by now Tropical Storm Dorian, “we’ve had people already calling saying ‘do you guys have any money to help us with our tickets. We don’t want to go through this now,’” said Velez-Herrera.

Puerto Rico’s power grid remains fragile to the point that it often goes dark even during light rain. So, if they can’t leave the island, residents pray they are spared this time.

We don’t wanna underestimate this,” said Velez-Herrera. “And mother nature, you know, has a life of her own.”

Lilly Velez-Herrera says there are still actually seven Puerto Rican refugee families that moved here a couple of years ago that still haven’t been able to find housing. So, they’re living in a local church.

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