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On The Ground In Puerto Rico

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Hurricane Maria, a monster hurricane, has made landfall in Puerto Rico. Winds as powerful as 150 miles an hour are blowing out windows and tearing roofs off houses. Let's see what it's like to be in the path of this storm. Miguel Santiago is on the line with us via Skype. He is a reporter with member station WRTU in San Juan.

And Miguel, tell us the situation right now.

MIGUEL SANTIAGO, BYLINE: Hi, David. Right now, I'm in - you know, inside the radio station. You know, someone had - a few colleagues and me decided to, you know, just stay here, broadcast as much as we could, so people can be, you know, well-informed during the path of the hurricane.

Right now, I'm in San Juan. So right - I'm just in the middle of the hurricane. I suppose I believe the eye will come in a few hours or so. It's been - you know, it's an hour since - more than a - little more than an hour since the hurricane landed in Puerto Rico. You know, from what I can see, very high winds are, you know, just tearing trees apart. You know, just...

GREENE: Miguel, you still there? OK, it sounds like we've lost Miguel.

SANTIAGO: ...And lots of trees. It's very weird to see a tree - can you hear me now? Sorry.

GREENE: Yup, yup, yup, you're back. Go on. I guess the line is holding as best it can in the storm. Yeah, you said the trees were being ripped up, you can see out there.

SANTIAGO: Yeah, a lot of trees are falling right in the middle of the road. I suppose it's going to take, you know, a lot of time to, you know, just have a drivable road. Most of the island is without power. Since I'm at this radio station, you know, I have a generator, so I can stay up-to-date, and, you know, I can communicate with people. But the island is without power or water. Very high winds are, you know - are being felt here in the building, so much so that sometimes the building starts to shake in that matter.

GREENE: The whole building feels like it's shaking.

SANTIAGO: Yeah. One of the shelters, actually, in San Juan, a coliseum, had to relocate the refugees to the hallways because of the roof. It was, you know, shaking due to the winds. So - OK.

GREENE: Wow. The public safety commissioner of Puerto Rico warned people if they were in vulnerable areas or wooden houses - I mean, he said, you have to evacuate, or you are going to die. That's pretty blunt. Do you think people took these warnings, or are there people really in danger out there?

SANTIAGO: I believe most of the island, most of, you know, Puerto Rico's citizens did listen to that call. You know, I believe he probably said it because, you know, you have to alarm people as much as they can so they listen.

A lot of houses in Puerto Rico are made of wood - you know, really weak roofs. So it's - you know, it's really a safety hazard. It's really dangerous just to be inside those homes. So I think people did took that advice. You know, there are a lot of shelters, and there are a lot of people in those shelters at this moment.

GREENE: All right, well, Miguel, thanks for sticking it out there, and be safe. We hope you stay safe there in the station. I'm sure we'll be hearing from you on NPR later in the day. Thanks a lot.

SANTIAGO: Thank you.

[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: In this story, as in a previous version of the Web introduction, we mistakenly refer to WRTU as a member station. It was a member station in the past but is not currently. ] Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: September 21, 2017 at 12:00 AM EDT
In this story, as in a previous version of the Web introduction, we mistakenly refer to WRTU as a member station. It was a member station in the past but is not currently.