Hurricane Season: Are Puerto Rico and Houston Ready?

This June will mark the beginning of hurricane season, and less than a year after hurricanes Harvey and Maria, Puerto Rico and Houston are bracing themselves for the probability of more storms – the aftermath of which we know will disproportionately hurt low-income communities.  

In Puerto Rico, parts of the island still lack reliable electricity and plans to privatize the grid promise to increase costs and further limit access to this most basic service.  Last month, a tree falling on an electric supply line caused an island-wide blackout. With the threat of imminent hurricanes, communities are fearful that power will only become more unreliable.

In an interview with ThinkProgress, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz commented:

“If energy is privatized, what do you think will happen to a very, very small town in the middle of Puerto Rico that has very few inhabitants? It’s not going to be cost effective to supply them with power. I believe it has been widely acknowledged by the world that the [U.S.] response to Puerto Rico was unfair, was irresponsible, was inadequate and it cost lives.”

And in Houston, nearly 1,400 Texans who were displaced by Hurricane Harvey are getting kicked out of their government-funded hotels with very few viable alternatives. Ayana Byrd explains on Colorlines that communities of color are often in flood zones, and that with limited housing options, it is likely that the same low-income communities will be affected if another hurricane hits.

“[Hurricane Harvey] was most catastrophic for Houston’s communities of color. The neighborhoods where they typically live are located in low-lying areas that are prone to flooding and near petrochemical plants of superfund sites that tend to overflow during storms.

Though the city is rebuilding, the Houston Chronicle detailed the lives of many residents who have depleted their savings as a result of not being able to work after the storm. These men and women do not have the money for a downpayment on a rental or for repairs on Harvey-damaged homes.”

Low-income communities of color are often an afterthought when rebuilding infrastructure and investing in the overall health and wellbeing of a community. If another hurricane hits, we know whose lives are most in danger Read more about this pattern of structural oppression in Houston and Puerto Rico at Colorlines.com and ThinkProgress.

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Amanda R. Matos, proud Nuyorican from the Bronx, NY, is the co-founder of the WomanHOOD Project, a Bronx-based youth-led organization for young women of color. She is dedicated to empowering communities of color through capacity building, political education, and civic engagement. Amanda has led community organizing and policy initiatives at Planned Parenthood of New York City and Girls for Gender Equity. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government as a Sheila C. Johnson Fellow. On her free time, Amanda eats doughnuts and watches great TV shows like Jane the Virgin and Blackish.

Amanda R. Matos is a community organizer and reproductive justice activist from the Bronx, NY.

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