The University of Utah
College of Architecture + Planning

Prof. Garcia speaks about Puerto Rico’s recovery for the APA Resilience Roundtable.

Prof. Garcia speaks about Puerto Rico’s recovery for the APA Resilience Roundtable.

Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit Puerto Rico in September 2017. Maria, the more destructive of the two, devastated the island in myriad ways. It wiped out Puerto Rico’s electrical grid, leaving 3 million people without power — the biggest outage in U.S. history. It caused $100 billion in damage, and recent estimates from Harvard University, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, put the number of fatalities at 2,975.

After the disaster, Professor Ivis Garcia Zambrana, AICP, PhD, went back to the island she grew up on to help create long-term planning partnerships that would lead to a more resilient Puerto Rico. In this episode of Resilience Roundtable, she sits down with host Jim Schwab, FAICP, to provide a context for how vulnerable Puerto Rico was before the storms: its government was more than $70 billion in debt and its failing electrical grid was already causing blackouts. Garcia Zambrana details the aftermath of the storm, but she also tells Schwab about the planning work that happened — and continues to happen — post-Maria. Several plans were culled into one, and a fiscal plan was put together. The two planners discuss the positive developments happening on the ground, such as how the community resilience program strengthens towns by granting funds to local planning organizations, but also where work still needs to be done to get into step with the new economic and disaster recovery plan. Their nuanced discussion paints a portrait of a complex situation: one in which great strides in rebuilding and recovery have been made, but great strides in hazard mitigation still need to happen.

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Photo by jonathan buttle-smith on Unsplash