UPDATE 10 a.m. Sept. 25: Melinda Echevarria has heard from a sister-in-law that her mother is safe. She still has not been able to get through to her mother directly.
UPDATE 8:30 a.m. Sept. 20: Hurricane Maria made landfall near Yabucoa around 6:15 a.m. Melinda Echevarria tells NBC Connecticut she has not heard from her mother Janette Hernandez since 7 p.m. on Tuesday and that there is no cell service in that area of the island. In the last message Echevarria sent her mother, she told her to stay safe, that she loves her, and that she is praying. The family is waiting for news.
As Jose heads further out to sea, the concern for many is now Hurricane Maria.
The Category 4 Hurricane continues to clobber small islands in the Caribbean – and Puerto Rico is bracing for a direct hit.
NBC Connecticut spoke with Janette Hernandez via Facetime while inside her home in Puerto Rico. She is originally from the island, but lived in the Hartford area for about 35 years, until she moved back to her native Puerto Rico five years ago. Now, she lives in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico – about 45 miles southeast of San Juan.
“I’d be lying if I say I’m not a little nervous,” she said.
With Hurricane Maria just a few hours away from reaching the island, she showed us her view from the porch of her home. It was eerily quiet then with hardly any wind – barely any cars on the street.
Hernandez knows Maria is coming. At times, the clouds and winds are hinting at Maria’s soon arrival.
“It’s starting to rain but I know that’s going to be coming, this weather is going to be coming – there’s a little wind coming as well.”
While Hurricane Irma caused some damage and flooding, the island was lucky for the most part as the eye skirted north of Puerto Rico.
It appears they won’t be so lucky this time. Hurricane Maria is forecasted to be a direct hit on the island.
“Sooner or later, we’re going to lose electricity and water because the system here is really behind in that type of service,” she said. “We’re trying to take care of each other. We had already covered the windows.”
Hernandez’s family is even going as far as keeping their chickens inside the house, where she plans to ride out the storm.
Meanwhile, in Connecticut - Janette’s daughter, Melinda Echevarria of East Hartford is glad her calls are still getting through to her mother.
“For (Hurricane) Irma she was able to call us within a few days. This time around I don’t think we’re going to be that lucky,” said Echevarria.
Echevarria does not know how much longer they’ll be able to stay in touch. It’s what both mother and daughter are worried about.
“Without electricity, communications for a while with our family so that I worry about but I want to tell my family that I’ll be OK,” said Hernandez.