Hurricane Maria, rebuild can't break spirit of Puerto Rico town where storm made landfall

YABUCOA, Puerto Rico (WABC) -- Twelve months after Hurricane Maria carved away half of a two-lane road in the foothills of Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, the damage and destruction remain unchanged.

Wanda Alvarez, 47, lives just down the street.

"The time is so long when the light came, five months, seven months, eight months," Alvarez said. "The water, the service. Things that you need to live. We have a lot of problems with that."

The school teacher and mother of two teenage boys said the people of Yabucoa survived the storm by working and rebuilding together during the year-long recovery.

The storm destroyed the town's cherished baseball stadium, wiped away much of the business district and knocked out power for months. But the hurricane that made landfall in Yabucoa could not break the community's spirit.

"We have water now, we have electricity," 77-year-old resident Luis Crespo said. "We're OK."

Agriculture and Yabucoa go hand in hand. The municipality is 55 square miles, roughly 38,000 people live there, and more than half live below the poverty line.

Life was difficult before Hurricane Maria. Then the storm roared through -- followed by three tornadoes -- and life got even more difficult.

"Sure, life is more difficult now," 55-year-old resident Rene Vazquez said. "It's more complicated, with transportation, the roads, and things like that."

Eyewitness News reporter Joe Torres is in Puerto Rico to cover the storm recovery one year later. CLICK HERE to view his reports, as well as other stories about Puerto Rico.

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