Puerto Rican population in metro Orlando dips back to pre-Hurricane Maria levels

The Puerto Rican population in Central Florida returned to pre-Hurricane Maria levels, according to the latest American Community Survey, conducted yearly by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The newest estimate of Puerto Ricans is roughly 385,000 in Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Lake counties, which is similar to before the Category 5 storm ravaged the island in mid-September 2017, driving many Puerto Ricans to Central Florida.

UCF sociologist Fernando I. Rivera, founder of the Puerto Rico Research Hub, explained that Puerto Rico’s migration “is circular.”

“Basically, the economic conditions are what really determine the population movement,” he said. “If you are going to suffer economically here, you would prefer to go back to Puerto Rico and at least be with family.”

The decline is an unusual twist for one of the U.S. mainland’s largest concentration of Puerto Ricans — only second to the New York metro area. In the city of Kissimmee, where Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden made a campaign stop last week to announce an economic recovery plan for the island, 1 in every 2.5 residents is of Puerto Rican origin. They represent a large block of voters to be wooed in Florida, with Central Florida positioned as the highly-sought swing region in a state viewed as one of the most coveted prizes in the upcoming presidential election.

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Hurricane Laura makes landfall in Louisiana as Category 3 major storm

Hurricane Laura pummeled the Gulf Coast on Thursday morning with maximum sustained winds of 120 mph and storm surge waters, exceeding 9 feet in some parts of Louisiana.

Laura slightly weakened from a Category 4 storm with 150 mph winds to a Category 3 after making landfall around 2 a.m. eastern time, near Cameron, Louisiana. The storm is 30 miles north-northwest of Lake Charles and moving north at 15 mph, the National Hurricane Center said in its 5 a.m. update.

“At the time of landfall, Laura was a ferocious looking hurricane with a clear circular eye, an intense eyewall, and tightly-coiled surrounding spiral bands,” the NHC said.

Laura has “unsurvivable” storm surge, according to the NHC, capable of penetrating 40 miles inland from the Louisiana-Texas coast, as much as 20 feet high in some places. Thus far, most areas around the coast have received surge levels higher than 3 feet, but certain areas have recorded over 9 feet, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s storm surge map.

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