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Puerto Ricans in Tampa Bay region rally to help friends, family impacted by Hurricane Fiona

The hurricane hit the island just two days before the five year anniversary of Hurricane Maria.

TAMPA, Fla. — As heavy wind and rain battered Puerto Rico, the island was once again victim to a storm's wrath.

"It's like a lion roaring at your window nonstop," Angel Matos said.

He and his family waited out the storm in Peñuelas, not expecting the impact to be as severe.

"Everybody's telling me they felt this as strong or stronger than Maria. We thought, 'Oh, a tropical depression, don't worry about it. Maria was Category 5 and we felt exactly the same," Matos said.

Fiona, a Category 1 hurricane, inundated his home with water. The highest levels getting to almost 3 to 4 feet.

"When I looked at the footage, I was like 'somebody's got to be joking.' This is not happening," Jeanie Calderin said.

Calderin is Matos' niece miles away in Tampa. Knowing the island has no power, she called right away and got through.

"I needed to tell him that I love them because I know there's a lot of people in worse situations than they are," Calderin said. 

While she makes sure her family on the island is okay, she's planning to go to Puerto Rico with her nonprofit organization Somos Puerto Rico Tampa to help as many people as she can

"Right now, what I have done is I created a GoFundMe where I'm going to be collecting money. Instead of bringing donations, we're going to be buying these things, like lanterns and flashlights and repellent. We'll buy these products and have them shipped directly to Puerto Rico," Calderin said. 

Somos Puerto Rico Tampa isn't the only organization jumping to action. Bóricuas de Corazón Inc. is a disaster relief team in Hillsborough County. They opened their doors in Brandon once Hurricane Fiona hit and won't close until everyone is taken care of.

"We have a couple of diapers for the kids, hygiene kits, and everything that is solar," Linda Davila, the head of the organization, said. 

The team has been coordinating with mayors in Puerto Rico and the teams they have already on the ground. Those on the island are helping clean roads and neighborhoods, spotting what will be needed in the coming days. 

"It's devastating. It's like a never ending story. You do it so much and think things are going to be turning tomorrow. Five years after Hurricane Maria and now we're in the same situation or probably worse," Davila said.

With flooding being the main concern, the disaster relief team will bring necessities once they're cleared to fly in to the island. Right now they're connecting families who haven't heard from their loved ones.

"Our priority is saving lives. That's our priority right now," Davila said.

Several organizations in the Tampa Bay region are stepping up to help people on the island. You can find a list of the items they need below.

  • To help Somos Puerto Rico Tampa with their efforts for Puerto Rico, you can visit this site.
  • To help Bóricuas de Corazón Inc with their efforts for Puerto Rico, you can visit this site. 

    

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