By Kirsten Nielsen
INDIANAPOLIS – While most lawmakers were home with loved ones for the holidays, state Sen. Mike Delph was in Puerto Rico helping the island recover from September’s devastating hurricane.
Delph is a major in the U.S. Army Reserve and was called for active duty in Puerto Rico beginning Dec. 8.
The Carmel Republican returned to Indiana last week and shared some of his experiences with the Senate Thursday.
State Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel
“The first thing that struck me was there were no traffic lights,” Delph said.
He asked fellow senators to imagine what it would be like if Indianapolis’ power was down, with no traffic lights to make order in the chaos of downtown and highway traffic. He says this is “daily life” in Puerto Rico, but power is slowly returning.
He described what he saw across the island and said devastation was “ubiquitous and wide-spread.”
In the states, people heard of the power loss often. What most people heard less about was the issues with access to water. Delph said this is still a problem, specifically with drinking water.
“Many homes are built on concrete block to withstand things like hurricanes, but the roofs do not make it,” Delph said.
Tarps currently act as temporary roofs for those homes. Entire cities are without proper shelter, and “this is something that remains a problem today,” Delph said.
“Cell towers were knocked out, making digital access to the world spotty and inconsistent,” he said. “Businesses, shut down. Full resorts, shut down. Hotels, shut down. Stores like Subway, Walgreens, shut down because of the damage of Hurricane Maria.”
Delph said even in his brief time there, it’s difficult to describe what he witnessed. He and those he served with had to experience part of the daily life of Puerto Ricans. They had difficulty with water access, but they were fortunate to have power in their joint Recovery Operations Center. All the loss in Puerto Rico was eye opening to him.
Delph said Americans can help Puerto Rico by spending money there to help boost the economy.
“We are not talking about a foreign country,” he said. “We are not talking about foreign citizens. We are talking about American citizens who have given very much to this country in terms of blood and sacrifice through our military.
“This is not just for people who call themselves Puerto Rican; this is for people who call themselves American, and that’s all of us.”
Kirsten Nielsen is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.