Central PA residents worry about families in Puerto Rico impacted by Hurricane Maria

LANCASTER, Pa. - Many in the local Puerto Rican community say they have been glued to their TV's and mobile devices the last few days trying to get the latest updates about Hurricane Maria, which made landfall Wednesday on the US territory.

Brittney Parker of Harrisburg remembers her times visiting her extended family in Yabucoa fondly. That is where Maria made landfall Wednesday, and she is worried after losing contact with her family early Wednesday morning.

"The entire island is without electricity," she said. "I believe the entire island is without running water. Some people have cell service, but there is very limited, if any news coming out of Yabucoa and the surrounding areas."

At San Juan Bautista Catholic Church on Duke Street, Wednesdays are generally busy with parishioners coming in to pray, but that was not the case this time.

"It just seemed a little strange today that it was kind of a quiet, an eerie quiet," said Teresa Zapata, the church's office manager, who has several siblings and extended family living in Puerto Rico, mostly in the communities of Fajardo and Ponce.

Those who did come in are hoping people keep the island in their thoughts.

"It's time that we all stand united as a family, as a community here in Lancaster and Puerto Rico, and pray for our island," said Juanita Lopez, who was born and raised in Puerto Rico. "That's all I ask."

Puerto Rico took some damage from Hurricane Irma less than two weeks ago, but it did not make as much of an impact as Maria did on Wednesday.

"It's a beautiful place, but the houses, some of the houses are not equipped for a hurricane," said Edna Negron-Lopez, Juanita Lopez's daughter and a Lancaster resident whose extended family mostly lives in Orocovis, in the center of the island. "My cousin actually lives in a wooden house and he decided to ride it out and we are very worried for him."