Maria Teresa Rosado (Left) and Luis Flores (Right) recently arrived from Puerto Rico. They sought assistance at the hurricane relief center in Miami International Airport on 29 November 2017. Photo: Carmen Sesin / NBC News

By Carmen Sesin
30 November 2017

MIAMI (NBC News) – The exodus of Puerto Ricans to Florida following Hurricane Maria has reached a whopping 200,000 in just over two months, obliterating initial conservative estimates that had put the number at 100,000.

Maria Teresa Rosado, 37, and her husband Luis Flores, 33, arrived in Miami over the weekend to start rebuilding their lives. Power has not yet arrived to their house in San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico.

Wednesday, the couple was at the hurricane relief center at Miami International Airport, which was set up by the state to make it easier for those arriving to get settled.

The couple said that as of now, they are not planning to return to the island even if power is restored and the economic recession subsides.

Flores, a hospital worker, said he sometimes had to choose between paying the electrical bill or buying food.

“There is more opportunity here for us to grow as professionals,” Rosado, who was a retail manager said.

Hurricane Maria trounced Puerto Rico on 20 September 2017, and since then, families have been boarding planes to the mainland with no end in sight. Flights from the island are booked solid through the end of the year.

According to the Florida Division of Emergency Management, over 204,000 people from Puerto Rico have landed at airports in Miami, Orlando, and Tampa since October 3rd.

A total of 7,756 Puerto Rican students have enrolled in Florida public schools during the same period. The largest enrollments are in Orange and Osceola Counties in Central Florida, which has the heaviest concentration of Puerto Ricans. Many universities in the state have also waived out-of-state tuition fees for Puerto Rican students. […]

The scale of migration is larger than any other in Puerto Ricans history. “Puerto Rico will be seen by historians as before and after Maria,” said Luis Martinez Fernandez, a History professor at the University of Central Florida, calling it “a watershed moment.”

Since the initial aftermath of the hurricane, Fernandez has predicted a total of 500,000 to 750,000 Puerto Ricans would leave the island in a four-year period.

“As it turns out, 500,000 is now the low-end estimate for a five year period. It appears that it will be closer to 750,000,” according to Fernandez. [more]

Over 200,000 Puerto Ricans have arrived in Florida since Hurricane Maria

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