GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Puerto Rico residents, including two people with West Michigan ties who now live there, are cleaning up after Hurricane Fiona battered the American territory.
Healthcare worker Stephanie Price and her wife, Jan Wilson, who is now retired, lived on the northeast side of Grand Rapids. They vividly remembered when straight-line winds of 80 miles per hour tore through Michigan back in August 2016.
But even that doesn’t hold a candle to a Category 1 hurricane going through their new home.
“We could see little cracks in places. We would look out and the palm trees were just bent over,” Price said.
Both native Michiganders say waves reached as high as 18 feet in an area where they never see whitecaps.
“We didn’t realize … how strong that wind would be,” Price said. “We have a rooftop terrace, too, in our condo. We have some stuff up there. We’re like, ‘Uh oh, everything’s gone.’ But it turns out everything wasn’t gone … even the grill wasn’t flipped over.”
Thankfully, galvanized steel shutters also prevented any further damage to their fifth floor condo in the southeastern city of Maunabo.
“We were very, very lucky,” Wilson added. “We’ve talked to people that are on the other side of the island that we met when we were here through the winter. They didn’t fare as well.”
But despite widespread damage and power outages, Price and Wilson say morale there is still high, with neighbors and complete strangers all helping each other.
“That’s Puerto Rico. That’s how people are. … Everybody that we know, everybody that we don’t even know, like our neighbor downstairs just said, ‘Hey, if you need anything or whatever, just let us know,'” Price said.
Price and Wilson both say they are fine. In fact, they encourage their fellow Michiganders to give whatever they can to a reputable charity, like the American Red Cross, directly helping Puerto Rico after Fiona.