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Virgin Islands Rep. Stacey Plaskett On Hurricane Dorian

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Hurricane Dorian is gaining strength as it heads towards Florida. Forecasters are saying it will likely grow into a dangerous Category 3 storm that could hammer Florida's east coast over the Labor Day weekend. For now, in Puerto Rico, people are breathing a sigh of relief. And that is where NPR's Adrian Florido has been reporting. He's in San Juan. Hi there, Adrian.

ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: Hi, David.

GREENE: There were concerns that, while this wasn't going to be nearly as bad as Hurricane Maria two years ago, it could still be bad. I mean, how relieved are people there?

FLORIDO: Very relieved. There was a lot of anxiety. People, you know, had memories of Hurricane Maria sort of rushing back. But thankfully, there were no reports of major damage here.

GREENE: And I know this storm hit the Virgin Islands a bit harder than Puerto Rico. What is the latest you're hearing?

FLORIDO: There were widespread power outages in the U.S. Virgin Islands, both St. Thomas and St. Croix. But work is underway to restore power there now. And other than that, there also don't seem to be any reports of major damage other than possibly some damage from minor flooding.

GREENE: That's NPR's Adrian Florido in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where it looks like people are breathing a sigh of relief this morning as Hurricane Dorian moves away. Adrian, thanks so much.

FLORIDO: Thanks, David.

GREENE: As we mentioned, the U.S. Virgin Islands were closer to Dorian's path, and Stacey Plaskett was on St. Croix as the storm was hitting. She represents the U.S. Virgin Islands in Congress. Congresswoman Plaskett, thank you for joining us this morning. I know it's probably been a rough night as the storm was going by.

STACEY PLASKETT: Oh, thank you so much. We were really concerned because we are already in a fragile state. As like Puerto Rico, we have over a thousand people - maybe 1,200 - who still have tarps on their roofs. And...

GREENE: You're talking about Maria two years ago. Is that why there are still tarps up?

PLASKETT: Exactly.

GREENE: OK.

PLASKETT: And some of our infrastructure, of course - our hospitals and such - have issues in terms of their ability to be able - fully functional during a storm right now. We're blessed that it was not as heavy or as strong as we anticipated. And so we're still - we're going to be picking up the pieces now and trying to continue rebuilding after what happened to us in 2017.

GREENE: I don't know. I mean, as much as a place is important to someone's life and history and past - like, that if you see what happens two years ago, you live through a storm like this wondering if your community can make it through. Like, are you getting residents who were just thinking how many times they can rebuild and how long they want to be there?

PLASKETT: Sure. I mean, there are some individuals who have left. Our population, of course, has declined after Irma and Maria hit St. Thomas and St. John as a Category 5. My family has been here, both sides of my family, almost 300 years, and we're going to deal with this.

A lot of the damage to our public infrastructure was due in part to the neglect of the federal government over the years to supporting us in terms of federal dollars and percentages in the same manner that they did the mainland. And so they've given us funding not just to rebuild but to rebuild better than it was before. And so we're putting in - hardening our infrastructure - composite poles instead of wooden poles on - for utilities, putting things underground to ensure that we're able to deal with climate change, which is affecting us greatly.

GREENE: Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett represents the U.S. Virgin Islands. She joined us from St. Croix. Thanks so much.

PLASKETT: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.