It’s no secret that Hurricane Maria caused significant damage across Puerto Rico. At over a year and a half after the storm, much of the island remains in disrepair. On the surface, it isn’t surprising the island still has so much rebuilding left, but government researchers are looking deeper into the damage caused by Hurricane Maria because they believe more damage was sustained than expected.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is beginning a study into why so many essential buildings – like hospitals and schools – were severely damaged. Researchers will also look into why emergency communications failed. This study will be only the fourth investigation of its kind to ever take place.
NIST has already completed a preliminary report and determined buildings “suffered extensive nonstructural damage and loss of function.” The hurricane-force winds caused damage to roofs and windows that allowed for torrential rainfall to infiltrate and damage interiors. Even if roofs, doors, and windows were not compromised by the wind itself, wind-driven rain managed to penetrate many buildings and cause additional damage. The study will hopefully reveal how changes to building codes and infrastructure can prevent devastation like the kind suffered after Hurricane Maria.
While researchers look for ways to mitigate future damage, significant efforts need to continue to help Puerto Rico rebuild. Although there have been numerous hurdles to recovery, one of the most challenging hurdles has been dealing with insurance companies. Hurricane Maria caused millions of dollars of property damage to both residential and commercial properties throughout Puerto Rico. For insurance companies, this equates to huge losses. To mitigate these hefty payouts, insurance companies often use bad faith tactics to delay, undervalue, and outright deny valid claims. These tactics were so rampant after Hurricane Maria that Puerto Rico’s Commissioner of Insurance levied millions of dollars in fines. Despite this, many Puerto Ricans are still struggling to get paid in full by their insurance companies.