Puerto Rico has a larger population, about 3.2 million people, than many U.S. states. But it’s hard to imagine, say, Vermont or Idaho struggling to restore its electric grid five years after a major disaster. That was the situation in Puerto Rico when Hurricane Fiona struck this week, almost five years to the day after Hurricane Maria devastated the island in 2017. Now many residents are in the dark again.

Why has this popular tourist destination struggled so much to meet its people’s basic needs? Social scientists Carlos A. Suárez and Fernando Tormos-Aponte point to multiple factors that have hindered Puerto Rico’s recovery from Maria – and some reason for hope from the Biden administration.

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Jennifer Weeks

Senior Environment + Energy Editor

A worker cuts an electricity pole downed by Hurricane Fiona in Cayey, Puerto Rico, on Sept. 18, 2022. AP Photo/Stephanie Roja

Puerto Rico’s vulnerability to hurricanes is magnified by weak government and bureaucratic roadblocks

Carlos A. Suárez Carrasquillo, University of Florida; Fernando Tormos-Aponte, University of Pittsburgh

Hurricane Fiona will set back efforts to restore Puerto Rico that date back five years to Hurricane Maria. Two scholars explain how the island’s weak institutions worsen the impacts of disasters.

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