How Hurricane Maria is affecting BSA members in Puerto Rico

Members of the Boy Scouts of America living in Puerto Rico — including nearly 11,000 members across 300 Scout units — have been severely impacted by Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island as a Category 4 hurricane on Sept. 20.

The damaged Guajataca Dam, at risk of failing completely, is next to the Guajataka Scout Reservation. While the camp is above the dam and would likely remain safe and dry if the dam fails, there is great concern that the camp was already damaged in the storm. And, of course, there is worry that the rushing water would cause further damage to residents.

The U.S. territory of Puerto Rico was drenched with feet of rain and battered with 150 mph winds. It could be months before power is fully restored for Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million residents and even longer before everyone has clean drinking water.

While we keep all of our fellow Americans living in Puerto Rico in our minds, many in the Scouting community have asked how the Concilio de Puerto Rico de los Boy Scouts of America — or Puerto Rico Council, BSA — fared in the storm.

Information is limited, but we have heard from Maria Molinelli, the council’s Scout executive. She has been sending updates to a number of Scout officials, including John Mosby, director of the Northeast Region, of which Puerto Rico is a member.

Left: The BSA council office in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. Right: Guajataka Scout Reservation. Both photos are from well before Hurricane Maria hit.

What we know so far

Thankfully, Molinelli says BSA staffers at the council office in Puerto Rico are physically OK. Emotionally, the storm has left them frazzled.

The council office in Guaynabo, just south of the capital of San Juan, was damaged in the storm. There’s physical and water damage, and both air conditioning units were lost. Power is still off, and cell service is poor.

As was the case immediately after Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, it is too soon to understand the full impact of Hurricane Maria on our Scouting brethren.

Of concern as well is the beautiful Guajataka Scout Reservation. I have not yet heard of its current status. This Scout camp is where Scouts get some of their first exposure to the Scouting movement and where Scouters built lifelong memories at a Wood Badge course I blogged about in 2013.

Once more is known about the situation in Puerto Rico, including specific information on what the council needs in terms of financial support or volunteer labor, I will share it here.

Rob Hofmann, Area 2 Director in the Southern Region, has been coordinating all relief for hurricane disasters. He has been quite busy this year and will pass along updates as he can.

What you can do right now

The BSA has established an Emergency Assistance Fund to help our Scouting brothers and sisters in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Puerto Rico and beyond. You can contribute to that fund here.

The BSA has also created this special disaster relief page that outlines all the ways you can help. It will be updated as more information becomes available.

15 Comments

  1. From the map and the video it looks like Guajataka Scout Reservation is on the lake behind the dam, not beneath the dam. If the dam fails, it looks like the camp would be high and dry, not in the path of the water. The camp would no longer be lakefront, but should not be wiped out if the dam failed. Maybe I am mis-reading the map, but I think I learned something in 40+ years as a Scout. In any case I am sure there is damage to the camp from the storm.

    • Dear Tom, yes you are correct. I am an eagle scout from troop 1971 from Ponce, Puerto Rico. Currently residing in Kissimmee, Florida. Our Guajataka Camp is on the opposite direction of the dam. What really is a concern is that below the dam there are communities after communities. If the dam breaks more than 70,000 americans would be in great danger. It breaks my heart to see my island like this andas an eagle scout and order of the arrow member I am desperate to jump on a plane and go help rebuild the beautiful paradise of the caribbean.

  2. The camp is in no way threatened by the dam failure, if it ever happens. It sits on the western shore of the lake way upstream.

  3. Puerto Rico is and Island, Why isn’t draining? I have been there and I know there is a lot of construction equipment there I don’t understand why none of the news photos don’t show any of it being used to drain standing water.

    • Armchair rescue, such great sport.
      No power, no communication, no fuel.
      Any news we get is far from comprehensive.
      Plus, the press highlights the worst impacts, of which there are many.
      Anyone who saw the destruction of Andrew or Katrina even months after Homestead county was hit knows precisely what a cat-5 does.
      We build society for a particular weather envelope, this exceeds that.
      Rest assured, it’s gonna get worse before it gets better.

  4. So if we had to invade a country, the sky would be filled with parachutes. We have a president that is touting delivering a few pallets of water. This island has more people than quite a few states. I took my troop from Florida to camp Guajataca a few years ago. It was amazing. Those guys SING and holy cow they are so proud of their uniforms. It was life changing for so many of our scouts.

    Please share your outrage. Our country’s response to protect our citizens is an embarrassment.

    • Actually, staging an invasion takes months of preparation, and the logistics of it would only focus maintaining the invading force … much smaller than the affected population.

      If a nation could respond to a category 5 storm nimbly, it would be called a category 4.

      That’s not an encouragement for complacency. It’s to point out that there are some natural events that we as a society have not figured out how to adapt to.

  5. Thanks for the information Bryan, there re many of scout members that wanted to know about the condition after the hurricane of the Guajataka Reservation our sanctuary of friendship

  6. We shared your blog post in Scouting Adventures. We are looking for current pictures of #ScoutsPuertoRico in action. We found #ScoutsMexico supporting with donationas and helping in shelters. #Troop182 in #NorthFloridaCouncil is doing a #PuertoRicoRelief drive tomorrow. One of the #Scouters work in a company that is sending a cargo ship to Puerto Rico. Thanks @ScoutmasterJose

  7. Troop 582 from New Windsor MD has joined a relief effort through a commercial airline that will hold 600 pound pounds at a time that will deliver it. So with this in mind, we are trying to make our donations smart. We are not looking for big heavy bulky items. Below is a list of good suggestions to help PR:

    Batteries (D), Diapers, baby formula, cereal, powdered milk, precooked rice. Canned goods (corned beef, Vienna sausage, tuna, vegetables). Personal hygiene items. Many items can be donated. They just need to be nonperishable items. They might not have the availability to cook. So they are basically looking for foods they can eat opening a pouch or a can.
    As of now, Westminster Tractor Supply on RT.140 will be a drop-off point
    Once a flyer is ready…. will be posted. Y.I.S.

  8. I’m from troop 357 and I started a donation drive with the California Puerto Rico Parade & Festival. My Boy Scout son has been helping me with it all as well as my family. I am an almost official Assistant Scout Master. I say almost because I don’t think my papers have gotten in yet.

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