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GSA makes progress in recovery from Hurricane Maria

January 22, 2018

By Alison Kohler

This story is Part 2 in a series looking back on GSA’s response and recovery efforts in the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season. Read Part 1 about GSA’s initial response efforts to assess and reopen GSA leased and owned facilities and GSA’s support to our interagency partners in the whole community response.

GSA never broke stride when transitioning from the response phase to recovery after two strong hurricanes caused unprecedented damage to GSA-owned and leased facilities in the Caribbean.

Edgar Hernandez, manager of GSA’s Caribbean Field Office, attributed the substantial progress GSA was able to make to the efforts by the Caribbean Field Office who pulled together and demonstrated great commitment.

“Damage assessments, cost estimates, contract awards, project management, logistics of supplies and fuel, and unconventional air and road trips, were all done in record time with a synergy and harmony of purpose like none before. Their commitment, loyalty, sense of urgency and ownership was incredible, and somehow they always managed to keep a good attitude and positivity. They all helped each other in so many different ways, but most importantly by motivating one another,” Hernandez said.

GSA Fleet Management employees pose for a photo during Hurricane Maria recovery.
Ralph Sepulveda, deployed from Washington, D.C., Luis Santana, maintenance control center technician, Javier Hernandez, manager, Juan Mejias, fleet service representative, Gary Schlosberg, deployed from New York, and Francisco Billoch fleet service representative, pose for a photo at the San Juan Fleet Management Center in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. Photograph by Ralph Sepulveda

Within about two weeks after Hurricane Maria made landfall in the Caribbean on Sept. 20, 2017, approximately half of the owned facilities and approximately 40 percent of the leased inventory had reopened.

Two months post-storm, approximately 90 percent of owned and 80 percent of leased space was open. As of Jan. 1 all of GSA’s owned buildings in the Caribbean have reopened and about 85 percent of the leased space has reopened.

Although the owned facilities in the Caribbean were repaired enough to reopen, another $109.5 million is estimated for long-term repairs to restore the buildings to pre-storm condition and function.

Of the 102 leases, 17 of the locations will require months-long lease administration to manage the restoration according to the standards provided in the lease, with the balance still requiring some follow-up to ensure they are fully restored.

Looking back after four months and more than 100 days post-storm, Hernandez cautioned others about situations like the hurricanes of 2017.

“Never lower your guard, regardless of where you live. A catastrophe can hit anyone, anywhere and anytime. There are still co-workers without power and water in their homes. It’s still a low point for me,” Hernandez said.

This is the second in a series of stories looking back on the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season. Part 3 is the last in the series and focuses on how GSA relied on partnership among people to respond and recover from the Caribbean hurricanes.

Last Reviewed: 2018-07-31