MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - Since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico two weeks ago, some 13,000 responders have traveled there to aid in relief efforts. One of those people is a man from Minnesota lending a helping hand to a country in need.
Andy Garvais is a Blaine city council member and MN Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officer, who arrived in San Juan late last week.
He said the people are gracious and resilient, traits that will come in handy as Puerto Rico works to bounce back.
"Every night the skyline gets a little brighter," he said. "When I first got here, there were only a few buildings that had power. It was all generator created. As the nights have gone on, you see more and more buildings getting power."
Garvais is one of about 300 military members working out of the Puerto Rico Convention Center, helping FEMA get the island's 3.5 million citizens back on their feet.
He says most Americans understand the magnitude of the devastation the island endured during hurricane Maria a couple of weeks ago, but not the enormity of the logistics of getting supplies and equipment to the island.
"All too often people say, 'A hurricane came through, why don't I see food and water handed out the next day?' " Garvais said. "It doesn't happen. People can't travel from point A to point B without roads being cleared. Sea ports and airports being cleared."
Garvais says commodities like food and bottled water should flow more freely over the next two to three days now that many of the roads have been cleared of debris.
But it's going to take a lot longer to rebuild Puerto Rico's electrical grid and water delivery system that were wiped out by the storm from the ground up, and he plans to be there for the next few weeks.
"As long as we can keep the momentum going, keep people moving, keep people working, keep the recovery efforts moving along, I think we'll be in a good place," Garvais said.
He says the hardest part is being away from his 18-month-old son, but knowing he's separated from his family for a noble cause makes it all worthwhile.