GREENFIELD – When Richard and Beth Emmelman planned a two-week vacation in Puerto Rico, their departure date was delayed by three days because of Hurricane Irma.
When they arrived in San Juan on Sept. 15, there was no indication another hurricane would develop, said Richard Emmelman, a Greenfield resident who recently shared with the Hancock County Amateur Radio Club his story of hunkering down in a hotel while the Category 5 Hurricane Maria blasted Puerto Rico.
Richard Emmelman, who has been a ham radio operator for some 40 years, wasn’t prepared for the devastation that struck the island, from the destruction of many homes and businesses to the way the storm stripped the leaves from all the trees.
He and his wife were exploring the Quebradillas and Arecibo areas when they learned the powerful hurricane was headed their way. They hurried back to San Juan and took shelter in a hotel, where many residents of the city were sheltering as well, he said.
“Fortunately … we did not have the extreme damage and flooding that other areas had,” Richard Emmelman said in an email to the Daily Reporter. “Because of the extreme damage to the airport, our return flight was canceled.”
The couple remained in San Juan until Sept. 28, when they were able to fly out on a plane owned by the company Emmelman works for, he said. Emmelman shared his unique perspective on the storm’s affects with the ham radio group, remembering how dire the conditions were — even more severe than was portrayed by the national news media at the time, he said.
“The devastation was unbelievable,” he said.