Hurricane Fiona struck the U.S. territory Monday, killing four, triggering mudslides and crushing bridges while displacing more than a thousand and leaving more than a million residents without power.
Some wonder whether the storm will prompt the kind of exodus seen after Hurricane Maria. In the wake of that hurricane, more than 123,000 Puerto Ricans permanently relocated to U.S. states, especially New York and Florida, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.
And according to a new USA Today analysis of 2020 Census results, every single municipio—Puerto Rico’s equivalent of a county—lost population after Maria compared to the 2010 Census.
Why do Puerto Ricans leave the island?
The island’s numbers actually have been in decline ever since the U.S. territory reached its peak population in 2004, according to a Pew Research Center study, falling to about 3.2 million by 2018. Economic conditions there – notably a mid-2000s recession whose effects still linger – have been driving people off the island long before Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck in September 2017.
Some have left more recently, frustrated by what they see as the local government’s ongoing failure to deal with the aftermath.
Marla Perez-Lugo, born in Santurce and raised in Mayaguez, left Puerto Rico last year. Once co-director of Puerto Rico’s National Institute for…