An electric power pole leans over the road in the Piedra Blanca area of Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, 16 May 2018. Photo: Carlos Giusti / AP

By Joshua Hoyos
26 May 2018

(ABC News) – Eight months after being struck by Hurricane Maria, the island of Puerto Rico is bracing for another hurricane season while still cleaning up and restoring power.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Thursday that this year’s Atlantic hurricane season will see five to nine hurricanes with one to four major ones.

Officials on the island are making every effort to be prepared ahead of any storm by holding table-top drills, mock exercises and rounds of meetings.

These are some of the challenges the island faces going into hurricane season:

The race to 100 percent

The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority is racing to get the island’s customers back on the electrical grid before the start of hurricane season. Approximately 13,000 customers are still without power more than 240 days since Hurricane Maria hit the island.

The US Army Corps of Engineers, which was working on grid restoration, said their restoration mission assignment ended May 18. “USACE staff are currently supporting the transfer of logistics operations back to FEMA and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority and are overseeing the demobilization of contractors that supported the transmission and distribution lines mission” an Army Corps of Engineers spokesperson said in a statement to ABC News.

Col. Jason Kirk, the commander of the Task Force Power Restoration, told ABC News in March that the work being done was mainly a temporary one.

"The power restoration that we're doing right now, for the most part, is replacement … if we were in the mission to bury them [electrical poles], we would have hundreds of thousands of people without power because it takes so long," Kirk said.

Gov. Ricardo Rossello has said that the electrical grid that is being put up now will be weaker than the grid that existed prior to Maria. He added that it will take close to five years to a rebuild a stronger electrical grid.

The death toll

The number of lives claimed following Hurricane Maria remains a mystery on the island. A team from George Washington University is currently leading an independent effort to count the dead. Dr. Lynn Goldman, dean of the Milken Institute School of Public Health, told ABC News the task of counting the deaths is an exhausting one, which involves interviewing people involved in the care of those who passed away.

In a statement on Monday, the Puerto Rico Department of Public Safety has announced that the George Washington University team “requested additional time to complete the commissioned study on the deaths after the passage of Hurricane Maria through the Island.” The statement continued by saying “according to Professor Carlos Santos Burgoa, director of the study, the final report may be completed during this summer to complete the analysis of the available databases.” [more]

Puerto Rico braces for hurricane season, 8 months after Maria

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