Ponce We hadn’t been to Puerto Rico over the last fifteen years. Tickets were too pricey to Mexico and Columbia, so why not see how they have come through the recovery from Hurricane Maria, touch base with our friend and comrade, Willie Cosme, and check out some places on the island we hadn’t visited in the past when we had come, thanks to meetings of the executive board of the Service Employees International Union, when I was a member.
We landed late on Christmas Day on a trip that had begun when we left the house at 4:15AM, managed to survive the erratic internet at an off-brand, local rental car agency and were in Ponce near the shipyards and along the water by 8pm on the western side of the island. Ponce is the second largest city in Puerto Rico, named after Ponce de Leon, famed and controversial Spanish explorer, who according to legend searched for the fountain of youth in Florida, as we learned in our fourth-grade history books.
One day we visited the state forest near Guanica, about a half-hour up the coast from Ponce, and enjoyed the clear water and colorful crabs scurrying along the rocks as the tide came in late in the afternoon. Having passed refineries and chemical plants that dotted the coast highway, we were delighted to finally find ourselves in a patch of beauty and serenity. Doing the dishes Saturday night, my daughter yelled at me to turn off the water. She and her mother had felt a tremor that felt like an earthquake for a few seconds. It was 4.4 and had happened right off the coast off Guanica, where we had been the day before.
A neighbor above us looking over his balcony confirmed their reaction. He advised us to listen for a siren, which would sound if there were a tsunami approaching. Suddenly, all of the signs we had seen driving along various beaches that advised of tsunami evacuation routes and warnings made more sense. Nonetheless, a surge of Google searches woke us up to the fact that Puerto Rico and the neighboring island were not volcanic, but were part of an earthquake zone. Once on the site it turned out a somewhat smaller earthquake had happened minutes before.
This is common, even if a little unsettling. Earthquaketrack.com is pretty clear:
Puerto Rico has had: (M1.5 or greater)
- 19 earthquakes in the past 24 hours
- 96 earthquakes in the past 7 days
- 376 earthquakes in the past 30 days
- 3,455 earthquakes in the past 365 days
The largest earthquake in Puerto Rico:
- today: 4.8 in Maria Antonia, Guanica, Puerto Rico
- this week: 4.8 in Maria Antonia, Guanica, Puerto Rico
- this month: 4.8 in San Antonio, Aguadilla, Puerto Rico
- this year: 6.0 in San Antonio, Aguadilla, Puerto Rico
Almost ten earthquakes per day would definitely get your attention, though there are so many most of the locals just get used to it, I suppose.
Definitely not in the front pages of the guide books, but an education for those of us trying to understand Puerto Rico better.