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Local Puerto Rican man says preparing for Tropical Storm Dorian brings back anxiety from Hurricane Maria

Posted at 4:53 PM, Aug 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-27 18:43:08-04

LAKE WORTH BEACH, Fla.  — Puerto Ricans are bracing themselves for impact for Tropical Storm Dorian. Many who left the island after Hurricane Maria plowed through in 2017 are feeling some type of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

More than 1,000 miles away from his hometown of San Juan, Rene Benitez is worried about Tropical Storm Dorian's looming approach.

"The whole situation, even though it's in a smaller scale, it affects any way because obviously still two years after the storm, we are still recovering," said Benitez.

Benitez is feeling the return of the anxiety he felt two years ago when Hurricane Maria, nearly a Category 5 at the time of impact, made a direct hit on the island, beating it down with wind and rain for more than 30 hours.

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"My dad unfortunately is still in Puerto Rico and he lives in the countryside. That obviously is my main concern because it took seven months for him to have power back," said Benitez.

Benitez left Puerto Rico two weeks before Maria hit. He had lost power after Hurricane Irma skirted the island. Little did he know, his stay in South Florida would become permanent. Maria left the island so battered, Benitez could not get a flight back home to assess the damage for months.

"I mean, I lost my whole life. 30 years living there all had to change in a moment, matter of hours," Benitez said. "The only thing that actually survived was my car luckily, I brought it afterwards."

Benitez has settled in Lake Worth Beach now as a tattoo artist and is back on his feet. Emergency management operations are ramping up in Puerto Rico, as families like Benitez's prepare for possible impact from Tropical Storm Dorian in the next 24-36 hours.

"This is not a good place to be in the next two or three days. The good news is this will be a very quick storm," said Nick Russo from FEMA.