While The Nation was fuming over the people of Peurto Rico left suffering without air-conditioning thanks to cold, uncaring Mr. Trump, various agencies both public and private were rushing aid to the battered U.S. Territory. The Feds bestirred themselves to wink at the 1920 Jones Act, which limits cargo transport between U. S. ports to U.S. flagged vessels, and lo, the containers are piling up on the docks--
And piling up and piling up. No phones, no fuel, torn-up roads and running out of places to set cargo containers down, open 'em up and get out the helpful items inside: how's any of that going to move to where it is needed without communications or haulage?
Mass communications are down to a handful of surviving radio stations* and unless commercial power is restored soon, they're going to start going dark as they run out of fuel for their generators. Point-to-point comms is limited to radio -- public safety, amateur radio, CB and FRS -- and it., too, is only as good as its power source.
This is going to be a slow-motion humanitarian disaster. People are going to die. There's already a lot of finger-pointing, doom-saying and feckless optimism, depending on the source, but none of it means a damn. The rural poor are best off in this kind of situation: if you already lived in a shack and got your water from an open well or hand pump, you're unlikely to be much worse off. Poor as the territory is, most people aren't at that point, don't know anyone at that point and may not have access to clean water or possess the skill set to get by for long without access to a level of civilization you might think pretty meager -- but which is nonetheless essential. Refrigeration alone changes the patterns of people's lives and vanishes as soon as the power goes away.
There will be a lot of posturing and shouting but won't mean much. Even "sending in troops" (what troops, from where? The 2075th Airborne Roadbuilders, the Marine Lineman/Generator Corps and the USAF Parachutable Cellular Tower Bombers have been just sitting around buffing their nails? Seriously, the part of the .mil devoted to rebuilding stuff is already busy; I'm sure they'll lend a hand but it's going to take a lot of hands, in a place that's having a tough time feeding the people who are already there) won't make a big difference, quickly.
Puerto Rico will be a long time recovering. No amount of speeches in D.C. will fix it and stacks of dollars are of slightly less immediate use than those stacked-up cargo containers on the docks. There are going to be locals working for three hots and a cot for themselves and the kids for quite awhile before things begin to look as if they might be on the way back to something approaching the previous level of normal life there.
* Inshore AM stations with relatively short or strong towers appear to have survived best; this should not be surprising and it's actually helpful. In terms of sheer coverage, old low-fi AM gives the most coverage per Watt: that means for a given amount of fuel, you can run the AM station longer than an FM with the same coverage. But the remaining stations are not only low on gas, they're short on people -- and the people are, like everyone else there, short on food and water. The clock is ticking and prioritization of resource allocation has to start at a very basic level: pretty much every assumption you might make runs up against needing to fix the stuff to fix the stuff to fix the stuff to get things to the people who need them.
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