Adrian Florido

Alberto Carrión got out of bed while it was still dark Wednesday morning, and as he drove the winding road toward Puerto Rico's eastern coast, he looked up at the clouds through his drizzled windshield and worried.

"Please don't let it rain," he thought to himself. "Oh, no, please don't let it rain."

Carrion is a well known singer and composer in Puerto Rico, and on Wednesday morning, the first anniversary of Hurricane Maria's destructive tear across the island, he was driving toward Yabucoa, the town where the hurricane made landfall.

Updated at 9:25 p.m. ET

Puerto Rico's governor updated the island's official death toll for victims of Hurricane Maria on Tuesday, hours after independent researchers from George Washington University released a study estimating the hurricane caused 2,975 deaths in the six months following the storm.

As Hurricane Lane approached Hawaii's big island, it dumped record amounts of rain on the city of Hilo, on the island's eastern coast, causing flooding, landslides, and damage to homes.

But as all that water began draining out to sea, it also created the perfect conditions for Shawn Pila to grab his surfboard and jump into the concrete drainage canal near his home.

Eleven months after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has said that the island's emergency is over. And because of that, the agency has begun scaling back its financial assistance to the island.

As Puerto Rico continues its recovery from Hurricane Maria, officials on the island are preparing for billions of dollars in federal reconstruction aid that will begin flowing in the coming months.

For months, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello has been struggling to get the U.S. Treasury to release $4.7 billion in disaster recovery loans that the U.S. Congress approved in October, weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated the island commonwealth. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had delayed releasing the loans because of disagreement over the terms of repayment.

On Thursday, the two men said they had reached a deal to allow the funds to start flowing.

Updated 12:46 p.m. ET

A spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Wednesday that the agency's plan to end its distribution of emergency food and water in Puerto Rico and turn that responsibility over to the Puerto Rican government would not take effect on Jan. 31.

In the days after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, residents of some of the hardest hit rural areas found themselves stranded — cut off from more populated areas by mudslides, crumbled roads and bridges, and toppled trees and power lines. In those early days, the only food and water many of these communities received arrived by helicopter, sent by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Four months after Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico, nearly 40 percent of the island's electricity customers remain without power.

Rosa Cruz and her husband, Luis Felipe Colón, both retired, are among them. They've eaten mostly canned food and prayed that Rosa doesn't have an asthma attack, because they can't plug in her nebulizer.

Their little house in a rural part of western Puerto Rico sits on a hillside. From their porch, they look down on the town of San Sebastián.

"When there was no electricity," Colón says, "it looked really beautiful at sunset."


Valery Pozo still gets angry thinking about it. It was about a decade ago, and the immigrant communities in her hometown, Salt Lake City, were on edge because of recent immigration enforcement raids in the area. Pozo's mother, an immigrant from Peru, was on the sidelines at her son's soccer game when another parent asked whether she was "illegal."

"To me, that was clearly a racist question and a racist assumption," Pozo recalled.

But her mother saw it as a harmless comment, despite Pozo's best efforts to convince her that it was something bigger.

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