Puerto Ricans in Chicago brace for more storms at hurricane season begins

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Thursday, May 31, 2018
Puerto Ricans in Chicago brace for more storms at hurricane season begins
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There's apprehension from the Puerto Rican community in Chicago as we head into hurricane season.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- It's been more than eight months since Hurricane Maria slammed in Puerto Rico. The storm devastated the island, forcing some residents to come here to find help and homes.

There's apprehension from the community here as we head into hurricane season.

Puerto Rican painter Richard Santiago is surrounded by his murals in Humboldt Park. Looking at images of the mudslides caused by tropical storm Alberto, he gets emotional.

"I'm still going through a traumatic process, so I see that and obviously it brings back memories," he said.

On Christmas Day, 2017, the Santiago family moved from Puerto Rico to Chicago to escape brutal conditions on the island after Hurricane Maria hit.

"The reason we left is to be able to tell myself at least that we provided the best I could for them," Santiago said.

Now, on the eve of the next hurricane season, Santiago says he can't help but think for Puerto Rico, hurricane season, "it never stopped," he said. "I'm very afraid of what's going to happen if a storm comes in any shape or form near from the size of (Alberto) was up to what Maria was," he said.

Puerto Rican Cultural Center Executive Director Jose Lopez went to the island less than two weeks ago and says, 8 months later, people still need a lot of help.

"This family's home was totally destroyed. They had no electricity and no water. This a week and a half ago," Lopez said. He says in Texas and Florida, "there are people that are ready already to face another hurricane. But Puerto Rico is not."

Advocacy organizations like the puerto rican agenda say they've helped more than 2,000 evacuees in the chicago area, and that speaks to strength.

Santiago says the resilience of Puerto Ricans, the compassion they have for one another, that's what's going to get them through this hurricane season and any potential crisis.

"The resiliency is about cooperation, it's about collaboration, it's about communication. And it's about the most basic idea of humankind," Santiago said. "It's to try to help the other. It's to have empathy."

Hurricane season starts Friday, June 1st.