Theresa Seiger, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
President Donald Trump on Thursday declared a federal disaster in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria brought pounding rain and punishing winds to the island, knocking out power and causing widespread flooding and landslides.
The declaration allows for federal resources to be used for Puerto Rico’s recovery efforts.
The island is reeling after Maria made landfall Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane. With maximum sustained winds measured at 155 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center, Maria was the strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in more than 80 years.
People walk next to a gas station flooded and damaged by the impact of Hurricane Maria, which hit the eastern region of the island, in Humacao, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, September 20, 2017. The strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in more than 80 years destroyed hundreds of homes, knocked out power across the entire island and turned some streets into raging rivers in an onslaught that could plunge the U.S. territory deeper into financial crisis. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)
"Months and months and months and months are going to pass before we can recover from this," Felix Delgado, mayor of the northern coastal city of Catano, told The Associated Press.
Videos posted on social media showed swift floodwaters and powerful winds brought to Puerto Rico by Maria.
Maria knocked out power to the entire island and its 3.4 million residents, officials said Wednesday.
Ricardo Ramos, CEO of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, told CNN that it could be as long as six months before power is restored.
“The system has been basically destroyed,” he said.
Maria continued to churn over the Atlantic Ocean as a major Category 3 hurricane on Thursday afternoon with maximum sustained winds measured at 115 mph, the National Hurricane Center said in an 11 a.m. advisory. Officials warned that the storm, which is expected to turn to the north early Friday, could still strengthen over the next day or two.