Hurricane Maria: Puerto Rico dam fails as island begins long recovery

Last Updated Sep 22, 2017 5:41 PM EDT

Hurricane Maria moved east of the Bahamas on Friday afternoon. The Turks and Caicos Islands and southeastern Bahamas are no longer under hurricane warnings.

The Category 3 storm continues to have maximum winds of 125 mph, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. The core of the storm was about 115 miles east-northeast of the southeastern Bahamas at 5 p.m. on Friday afternoon.

The Turks and Caicos Islands join the southeastern and central Bahamas under tropical storm warnings.

Maria was moving north-northwest at 9 mph and the storm is expected to slowly weaken while making a turn toward the north by late Saturday.

Puerto Rico was still without power Friday and may have no electricity for months. The U.S. territory's governor said its death toll has risen to 13. The storm has killed at least 30 people across the Caribbean.

The northwestern municipalities of Isabela and Quebradillas, home to some 70,000 people, were evacuated with buses Friday because the nearby Guajataca Dam was failing after the storm hit.

Friday afternoon, a failing dam prompted emergency evacuations of two towns in northwestern Puerto Rico. The operators of the dam reported that the failure was causing flash-flooding downstream, the weather service in San Juan said.

"It's a structural failure. I don't have any more details," Gov. Ricardo Rossello said from the capital, San Juan. "We're trying to evacuate as many people as possible."

Follow along below for live updates on the storm. All times are Eastern unless otherwise noted. 

5 p.m.: Bahamas no longer under hurricane warning

The Turks and Caicos Islands and southeastern Bahamas are no longer under hurricane warnings as Maria passes east of the Bahamas as a Category 3 storm.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Maria continues to have maximum sustained winds of 125 mph. The core of the storm was about 115 miles east-northeast of the southeastern Bahamas at 5 p.m. Friday afternoon.

The Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas join the central Bahamas in now being under a tropical storm warning, rather than a hurricane warning.

Maria is moving to the north-northwest at 9 mph and the storm is expected to slowly weaken while making a turn toward the north by late Saturday.

4:50 p.m.: Tax relief proposed for hurricane victims

The head of the House's tax-writing committee is putting forward legislation to give temporary tax relief to victims of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

The bill from Texas Rep. Kevin Brady, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, would ease requirements for deducting individual property losses and allow people to draw on their retirement funds without penalty. The legislation also seeks to encourage people around the U.S. to donate to hurricane relief efforts by temporarily suspending limits on deductions for charitable contributions.

Brady says he plans to formally introduce the bill Monday. He says it "helps hurricane victims keep more of their paycheck, deduct more of the cost of their expensive property damage, and have more affordable and immediate access to money they have saved for their retirement."

3:40 p.m.: Congress urged to witness Puerto Rico damage

Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois is asking for a bipartisan delegation of congressional leaders to visit Puerto Rico so they can personally witness the damage caused by Hurricane Maria and better understand the island's needs.

Gutierrez is making his request in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Gutierrez, who is of Puerto Rican descent, says what little Puerto Rico had in the way of public health and power infrastructure "was literally blown away" by the Category 4 hurricane.

He says that to understand the scope of the damage and the magnitude of the recovery, members of Congress need to see it firsthand.
Gutierrez says years of recession, an on-going financial crisis, and high levels of outmigration present unique challenges for the island and its government.

2:50 p.m.: Puerto Rican towns evacuated as dam fails

The National Weather Service says the Guajataca Dam is failing in western Puerto Rico and buses are evacuating people "as quickly as they can."

The government called the situation "extremely dangerous."

The weather service office in San Juan says dam operators reported at 2:10 p.m. that the dam at the northern end of Lake Guajataca in the northwest corner of Puerto Rico was failing and causing flash flooding downstream.

The northwestern municipalities of Isabela and Quebradillas, home to about 70,000 people, were being evacuated, the weather service said.

2:15 p.m.: Maria moves away from Turks and Caicos Islands

Hurricane Maria is moving away from the Turks and Caicos Islands as a powerful Category 3 storm.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Maria still has maximum sustained winds of 125 mph. The core of the storm was about 90 miles north of Grand Turk Island at 2 p.m. Friday afternoon.

Maria is moving to the north-northwest at 9 mph and the storm is expected to slowly weaken while making a turn toward the north by late Saturday. Forecasters in the Miami center say Maria's fierce core is expected to move away from the Turks and Caicos Islands in coming hours and move to the northeast and east of the Bahamas over the weekend.

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This graphic from the National Hurricane Center shows Hurricane Maria's trajectory as of 2 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017.

National Hurricane Center

1:45 p.m.: Some residents will stay, others will leave Puerto Rico

While some residents plan to leave Puerto Rico because of power outages and other hardships, others said they will stay put following Maria.

Israel Molina, 68, owner of Israel Mini Market in San Juan, said he has owned the shop for 26 years. He bought it and rebuilt it after Hurricane Hugo hit. "This is catastrophic," he said, as he surveyed pieces of roofing that had been ripped away. But Molina has no plans to leave -- for now.

"I'm from here. I believe we have to step up to the task. If everyone leaves, what are we going to do? With all the pros and the cons, I will stay here," he said, and then paused. "I might have a different response tomorrow."

Not far away, Diana Jaquez assessed damage from the storm with help from her husband as their children played. She is one of the owners of the Coquette hair salon. "I haven't decided yet," she said when asked if she planned to leave Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico In The Aftermath Of Hurricane Maria

Residents clear the streets after Hurricane Maria made landfall, September 21, 2017 in the Guaynabo suburb of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Alex Wroblewski / Getty

1:10 p.m.: At least 110 homes destroyed in Dominican Republic

Emergency responders are reporting at least 110 homes have been destroyed by floodwaters in different communities around the Dominican Republic.

Juan Manuel Mendez, an emergency operations chief, says at least 18,500 evacuees are being kept from their homes while waiting for floodwaters to subside.

Authorities say rivers overflowed and debris carried along by the floodwaters destroyed four bridges and have cut off 78 small communities on the island.

"The river caught us by surprise," said Maria Acosta, a mother of three who used a bucket to try to remove mud that washed into her home in El Seibo, in the eastern part of the nation.

Dominican Republic Hurricane Maria

A gift shop lies damaged on Cofrecito Beach after the crossing of Hurricane Maria over Bavaro, Dominican Republic, Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. 

Tatiana Fernandez / AP

1:05 p.m.: New York governor flies to Puerto Rico

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is heading to the Caribbean for the second time in a week to get a firsthand look at hurricane damage.

The Democrat departed from JFK Airport on Friday morning for Puerto Rico. Cuomo's office says Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello asked his New York counterpart for assistance to help the recovery.

Cuomo is traveling on a donated JetBlue aircraft that officials said was the first flight to depart for San Juan since the storm. Last week Cuomo traveled to the U.S. Virgin Islands following Hurricane Irma.

New York plans to send about 240 National Guardsmen and state troopers to assist Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The state is also sending drinking water, ready-to-eat meals, electrical generators and other supplies for the island territory ravaged by Hurricane Maria.

12:50 p.m.: National Guard helps U.S. Virgin Islands with recovery

An Air National Guard unit from Maine is deploying to the U.S. Virgin Islands to provide critical communications to support the recovery efforts.

Seven Air National Guard members from the 265th Combat Communications Squadron mobilized late Thursday.The 265th is tasked with establishing communications links for military, and if necessary, for civilian response authorities. The U.S. Virgin Islands are reeling after back-to-back hurricanes.

12:40 p.m.: Dominican Republic president tours devastated areas

The president of the Dominican Republic, Danilo Medina, is touring areas hit hard by Maria.

Authorities say several rivers burst their banks in the island nation, destroying several bridges and inflicting major damage on several highways. Emergency crews are now clearing storm debris on a key highway to the eastern tip of the island and its beach resorts of Bavaro-Punta Cana. Meanwhile, some 300,000 homes are without power after Maria's winds toppled many utility poles.

Also Friday, Puerto Rico was digging out from the storm. Some generators in Puerto Rico have been breaking down or running out of gas, prompting at least two hotels to evacuate hundreds of people. Families also were awaiting news about when the island's airport would reopen, with many planning to fly their children to the U.S. to temporarily enroll them in schools there until life in Puerto Rico returns to normal.

DOMINICANREP-HURRICANE-MARIA

Picture of signs of a station knocked down by strongs winds of Hurricane Maria in Punta Cana, in the easternmost tip of the Dominican Republic as the hurricane passes just north of the La Espanola island the country shares with Haiti, on September 21, 2017.

Erika Santelices/AFP/Getty

12:10 p.m.: Puerto Rico residents face hardships

"This is an absolute crisis," said Alana Yendez, a 44-year-old maintenance worker as she sat on the steps of her devastated home and rocked her 2-month-old grandson, Armani James. "There's so much flooding. My roof completely collapsed."

She and 11 other relatives sought shelter in a next-door building that a family had abandoned. They had six barrels of water they estimated would last them one month.

Nearby, 64-year-old retiree Neida Febus left her home carrying bowls of rice and ground meat topped with avocado. She had cooked for her neighbors who shared some of their food earlier as they waited for officials to say when the power might return.

"It won't be until Christmas," she said. "This storm crushed us from one end of the island to the other."

Puerto Rico Hurricane Maria

Julio Morales and Miriam Pagan stand on the front of their damaged home, in El Negro community a day after the impact of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico, Thursday, September 21, 2017. 

Carlos Giusti / AP

1:49 p.m.: Mayor: "Total annihilation" in Puerto Rico

CBS News correspondent David Begnaud spoke with Mayor Carmen Yulín of San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Friday about how the U.S. territory is recovering from hurricane damage. 

"We know it's terrible, it's total annihilation, devastation," Yulín said. "(There's) no power anywhere in Puerto Rico, no drinking water. What we're concerned about is the people we may not be able to get to, the elderly, the people that are in wheelchairs, the people that have respirators that are in need." 

According to Yulín, workers are canvassing each street for victims, which is very difficult. 

"The entire island is devastated," she said. "There's about 20 municipalities that are totally severed. No communication, no one can come in, no one can go out."

Maria caused at least 13 deaths on Puerto Rico.

"The human spirit is something of a wonder," Yulín said. "We are a resilient bunch of people. And if Maria thinks she's gonna make us kneel, she's got something coming her way that is more powerful, more brilliant and more devastating, which is the power of the human spirit."

11:38 a.m.: Maria passing Turks and Caicos Islands

Hurricane Maria is churning northeast of the Turks and Caicos Islands with top sustained winds of 125 mph. 

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami says the core of the major Category 3 hurricane is about 55 miles north of Grand Turk Island. It's moving to the northwest at 8 mph.

A hurricane warning continues to be in effect for the Turks and Caicos Islands as well as the southeastern Bahamas. The storm is expected to turn toward the north and northwest later Friday and head northeast and east of the Bahamas through Sunday. Maria is also expected to begin to gradually weaken over the next 48 hours.

6:58 a.m.: Maria's eye near Turks and Caicos Islands

The U.S. National Hurricane Center says the eye of Hurricane Maria is near the Turks and Caicos Islands while rains and dangerous high waves are starting to subside along the northern coast of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. 

As of 5 a.m. EDT, the storm was centered about 35 miles east-northeast of Grand Turk Island and is moving northwest at 7 mph. 

The Category 3 hurricane has maximum sustained winds near 125 mph but gradual weakening is expected during the next two days. 

The hurricane has ravaged Puerto Rico and people there face the prospect of going weeks and perhaps months without electricity.

A map shows the probable path for Hurricane Maria as of 5 a.m. ET on Sept. 22, 2017. The M stands for "major hurricane." The red areas represent hurricane warnings. The blue areas represent tropical storm warnings. The yellow areas represent tropical storm watches.

A map shows the probable path for Hurricane Maria as of 5 a.m. ET on Sept. 22, 2017. The M stands for "major hurricane." The red areas represent hurricane warnings. The blue areas represent tropical storm warnings. The yellow areas represent tropical storm watches.

National Hurricane Center

4:45 a.m.: Hurricane conditions expected all day in Turks and Caicos

The eye of Hurricane Maria was heading for the Turks and Caicos Islands early Friday morning at about 7 mph, but was expected to spare that island chain and the Bahamas a direct hit.

The National Hurricane Center said in its 2 a.m. update that "Maria's eye will gradually move near or just east of" the islands. But with sustained winds of 125 mph and gusts even higher, the Category 3 storm still presented a significant danger.

The 2 a.m. advisory said hurricane conditions were expected to continue all Friday spreading in the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas, and tropical storm conditions were possible in the central Bahamas from later in the day.

The storm's location at 2 a.m. was about 100 miles north of the Dominican Republic, and 45 miles east southeast of Grand Turk Island.

12:39 a.m. Sept. 22: Maria taking its time approaching Turks and Caicos

Hurricane Maria, still a Category 3 storm, is taking its time approaching the Turks and Caicos, the National Hurricane Center said.

Dangerous high winds and torrential rains continued along the northern coast of the Dominican Republic as the storm slowly moves closer to Turks and Caicos. 

Maria's eye is expected to gradually move away from the northern coast of the Dominican Republic and then move near or just east of the Turks and Caicos Islands and southeastern Bahamas on Friday.

Puerto Rico is still being lashed by rain, and flash flooding warnings continue. 

10 p.m. Sept. 21: Trump speaks with Puerto Rico governor

The White House says President Trump spoke with the governors of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Mr. Trump said earlier Thursday that Puerto Rico was "absolutely obliterated" and the Virgin Islands were "flattened" by recent hurricanes Irma and Maria.

The entire island of Puerto Rico was left without power after Maria knocked out its already weakened electrical grid.

Mr. Trump said FEMA and other emergency responders are helping both U.S. territories begin the recovery process.

He says he'll visit Puerto Rico.

Click here for Thursday's updates on the storm.