In the eve of tropical storm Irene's impending arrival, parking lots at most supermarkets on the island have been jam-packed with cars and shopping carts that have been left behind as soon as stores opened today. In fact, people were able to shop earlier than 11AM (the time when most stores on the island are legally allowed to open on Sundays) since Secretary of State Kenneth McClintock had suspended the Closing Law and ordered a price freeze on items of utmost necessity. The National Hurricane Center initially billed Irene as a tropical storm advisory but has since issued a hurricane warning for Puerto Rico. This evening, the entire island of Vieques is already said to have lost electricity. As the island's power grid and water pipelines are quite antiquated, it doesn't take much rain or wind to provoke a disruption of such basic services.
The lack of confidence on the government's part to confront any sort of natural disaster is precisely the reason why people clear out supermarket shelves, even when Puerto Rico isn't in the storm or hurricane's direct path. This afternoon, at a press conference, Gov. Fortuño announced that 13,000 homes are already without electricity. In addition, 400 homes are without water. Keep in mind that this occurred hours before Irene's arrival. The governor has also announced that all local government agencies and public schools will be closed tomorrow. He also took the same measures several weeks ago, when Emily passed by the island and most of the island emerged unscathed. In fact, some people in the metro San Juan area enjoyed the time off at the beach. Unlike Emily though, which (thankfully) did not wreak much havoc, Puerto Rico is in Irene's direct path.
(Photo credit: The image above was obtained from www.endi.com)