SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Gov. John Bel Edwards and top disaster recovery leaders from his administration are traveling to Puerto Rico this week to assist the island with its recovery from Hurricane Maria.
Edwards and first lady Donna Edwards are expected to arrive in San Juan on Monday morning and to return Tuesday evening.
Maj. Gen. Glenn Curtis, adjutant general of the Louisiana National Guard, and James Waskom, director of the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, made the trip on Sunday.
“Louisiana has far too much experience with disaster management, and Mother Nature has caused unimaginable harm in Puerto Rico,” Edwards said in a statement. “I am happy that Louisiana has been able to provide assistance as survivors recover, much like the assistance we’ve relied on in the aftermath of disasters I know they have a long road ahead of them, but I’ve assured Gov. (Ricardo) Rosselló that we will be partners with them as they move into the recovery phase."
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It's been a month since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, but the island has struggled with recovery obstacles. Much of the island remains without power.
During his trip, Edwards is scheduled to meet with Puerto Rican leaders, including Rosselló, to offer advice on the recovery, based on Louisiana's experience with previous storms. Though Louisiana was faced with the close threat of multiple hurricanes that reached the Gulf of Mexico this hurricane season, the state has been largely spared from devastating storms that struck Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Louisiana officials have since been advising other states on recovery efforts, with GOHSEP officials traveling to hurricane-hit areas. The Shelter at Home program, which Louisiana implemented after last year's catastrophic floods to make bare-bones repairs to make homes habitable again, is being used as a model for quick, short-term housing in hurricane-hit states.
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While in Puerto Rico, Edwards also is expected to meet with Louisiana National Guard troops stationed there and to have dinner with air traffic control airmen.
Shortly after arriving Sunday night, Curtis visited with National Guardsmen at an outpost in San Juan.
"I'm really, really thankful to all of you," Curtis told the troops in an uplifting pep talk.
Capt. Matthew Moore, who arrived in Puerto Rico about a month ago, said the experience has been humbling. He said his company has been providing security services, but has diverse members including medics, cooks and mechanics who have been able to lend their expertise to the effort.
"It's one of the most humbling experiences of my life," he said. "The people of Puerto Rico are very thankful and appreciative of what we're doing."
More than 300 members of the Louisiana National Guard have been sent to Puerto Rico after the storm made landfall on Sept. 20, and about half of them remain there.
In addition to the on-the-ground support, Edwards' administration helped coordinate a statewide donation drive, with drop-off locations in each parish, that collected about 100 pallets of donated items for Puerto Ricans impacted by the hurricane, with the Louisiana National Guard arranging transportation. The state has also sent 131 pieces of heavy equipment, including 18-wheelers, dump trucks, water tankers, skid steers, tractors and Humvees.