Puerto Rican family stuck in Carbondale, IL due to Hurricane Maria

Fallen trees. (Source: Wanda Miller)
Fallen trees. (Source: Wanda Miller)
Trees down in the road. (Source: Wanda Miller)
Trees down in the road. (Source: Wanda Miller)

CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) - A Puerto Rican family visiting the Heartland to escape Hurricane Maria has finally had their power restored.

The government calls the situation "extremely dangerous," and buses are said to be evacuating people as quickly as possible. The devastation over the past two days has affected more than five million that live on the island.

The after-effects of Hurricane Maria lay apparent in the roads, electricity and even communication.

A couple visiting family here in the Heartland took a direct hit from Hurricane Maria. Wanda Miller and her husband live in Puerto Rico, and came to Carbondale to visit their daughter, but didn't expect a hurricane to devastate their homeland while they were gone.

Miller explains the devastation in comparison to other hurricanes on the island , "This time was different...Right now it's a lot of destruction, and a  lot of work to do, no energy no water service."

Miller and her husband were thousands of miles away from home when the Category 4 hurricane hit on Wednesday.

"The day, the night, the day, the time the storm was passing I was there. I was watching the news.. I could not sleep, I was just checking all the time. Like tracking the storm. You are here. But your mind and your thoughts – you're there," Miller describes.

Thankfully, they prepared in advance. Her husband had bought wooden panels just in case. "I called my son back in PR and he went home. And he boarded like prepared the whole thing. He put the storm shutters and he collected water and he made sure that there was no power outlets connected."

But one problem, they couldn't get in contact with family for an entire 24 hours. Fortunately, on Thursday, their first ping was from their nephew.  She describes her feelings, "I was so happy – relieved to listen to him and him telling me that everyone was ok. I knew that everybody was ok. I was calm in that sense."

Even while I was there, she received a call but it never last long. "Communications are very fragile. And you have to rush because there might be the lost of communication pretty soon."

Despite the short conversations, Miller is happy to at least say those three words. "We express to each other that we love each other. You say I love you. But when you know that something terrible is going to happen. I love you means different."

Wanda Miller says her parents and sisters are safe, but they still have not heard from her mother in law.  She says as soon as they can, they are going back.

Puerto Rico faces a long road to recovery from the hurricane. Reportedly, no one in the country may have power for quite some time -- maybe a month.
Maria's death toll across the Caribbean has climbed to at least 27.

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