PUERTO RICO -- A South Milwaukee couple stuck in Puerto Rico as Hurricane Maria hit Wednesday, September 20th had to be moved to a different hotel tower amid the storm because their hotel room was destroyed!
Luis Millan and his girlfriend Alexis Oakes are in Puerto Rico, celebrating their anniversary. They spoke with FOX6 News via FaceTime Tuesday as Maria approached, and said they didn't realize Maria was brewing until a few days ago, and by then it was too late. They tried getting an early flight out of San Juan, but everything was booked.
On Tuesday, they were hunkering down, and said the hotel was providing food, drinks and shelter, and they were able to make it to the grocery store for a few necessities. Things were much different Wednesday.
"The (hotel) tower where we were at is completely destroyed. It was chaotic," Luis Millan said.
They said Tuesday they never thought they'd experience a hurricane.
Puerto Rico is already in an 11-year economic recession, and must now start rebuilding after Hurricane Maria, the strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in more than 80 years, left the island knocked out flat. Leaving at least nine people dead in its wake across the Caribbean, Hurricane Maria blew ashore in the morning near the southeast coastal town of Yabucoa as a Category 4 storm with winds of 155 mph (250 kph).
The island was completely without electricity Wednesday.
"This is total devastation," said Carlos Mercader, a spokesman for Puerto Rico's governor. "Puerto Rico, in terms of the infrastructure, will not be the same."
The total extent of the damage isn't known yet, but the visuals are telling: Roofs blown off, flooded streets, shattered windows, debris and remnants of palm trees strewn about. It was the strongest hurricane to hit the island since 1932.
Estimates of the financial toll are likely to start coming in over coming days. But the price tag will be large.
"Definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was an eye-opener for us. It showed us how fast our life flashes in front of our eyes. The power went out. It was crazy. It felt like we were in a movie. There were kids crying, families hugging each other, not knowing what’s happening. We lost signal," Millan said.
Millan described what they experienced as the storm hit.
"It was like a whistle noise. Howling. The trees, you could hear moving back and forth. Sirens started going in Puerto Rico. Then you could hear, I don’t know where, waves hitting, water. You could hear things flying. If you’re spinning something and you hear that whistling noise, the wind -- that. Where were at, the boards the on the door were shaking. It felt like a tornado was in our building," Millan said.
Millan said the hotel provided flashlights and glow sticks. He said they've gotten little sleep.
"We’ve been up for maybe 30 hours. There’s trees on the floor -- branches. Luckily the storm passed. We’re in a room safe, and that’s what matters to us the most," Millan said. "We’re very humble we made it out safe. We can't wait to come home and hug our loved ones."
Millan and Oakes hope to leave Puerto Rico Friday -- but said they're unsure at this point whether the airport will be open.