SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The sky was darkening Thursday afternoon as 10-year-old Sarah Jimenez laid out three plastic buckets on her grandmother's patio in hopes of capturing rainwater.
"We can use it to at least flush the toilets," she told her grandmother.
A day after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, flooding towns, crushing homes and killing at least two people, millions of people on the island faced the dispiriting prospect of weeks and even months without electricity.
The storm knocked out the entire power grid across the U.S. territory of 3.4 million, leaving them without electricity to light their homes, cook or pump water.
As a result, Sarah and others hunted for gas canisters for cooking, collected rainwater or prepared themselves mentally for the hardships to come in the tropical heat. Some contemplated leaving the island.
"You cannot live here without power," said Hector Llanos, a 78-year-old retired New York police officer who planned to go back to the U.S. mainland on Saturday to live there temporarily.
Like many Puerto Ricans, Llanos does not have a generator or gas stove. "The only thing I have is a flashlight," he said, shaking his head. "This is never going to return to normal."
Maria's death toll across the Caribbean, meanwhile, climbed to at least 19, nearly all of them on the hard-hit island of Dominica.
As of Thursday evening, Maria was moving off the northern coast of the Dominican Republic with winds of 120 mph (195 kph). The storm was expected to approach the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Bahamas late Thursday and early Friday.
From there, it is expected to veer into the open Atlantic, no threat to the U.S. mainland.
In Puerto Rico, the grid was in sorry shape long before Maria struck.
The territory's multibillion-dollar debt crisis has left agencies like the state power company broke. It abandoned most basic maintenance in recent years, leaving the island subject to regular blackouts.
"We knew this was going to happen given the vulnerable infrastructure," Gov. Ricardo Rossello said.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it would open an air bridge from the mainland on Friday, with three to four military planes flying to the island every day carrying water, food, generators and temporary shelters.
"There's a humanitarian emergency here in Puerto Rico," Rossello said. "This is an event without precedent."
Rossello said his administration was trying to open ports soon to receive shipments of food, water, generators, cots and other supplies.
The government has hired 56 small contractors to clear trees and put up new power lines and poles and will be sending tanker trucks to supply neighborhoods as they run out of water.
Fifty-four of the island's 78 municipalities have been declared federal disaster zones.
Sarah's grandmother, Maribel Montilla, already had had two large barrels at home filled with water but worried about how long it would last for her, her daughter, her son-in-law and six grandchildren.
"You know what I think? We're going to be without power for six months now," she said.
Cellphone and internet service collapsed in much of Puerto Rico. The only radio station still operating — WAPA 680 AM — was relaying messages on the air to help connect friends and families.
Other concerns were more prosaic.
Across the street from Alvarez's house, someone yelled at a neighbor, "Listen, do you have Netflix?!"
MANY RIDES TO CHOOSE FROM
Wine Country Century
Sponsored by the Santa Rosa Cycling Club and held May 1, the ride
attracted 2,500 riders and raised about $175,000 for the club,
which also made donations to the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition,
the California Bicycle Coalition, the League of
American Bicyclists and the
Tour of California. www.srcc.memberlodge.com/WCC
Mendocino Monster Century Bicycle Ride
Sponsored by the Rotary Club of Ukiah, the ride was held Sunday
from Mendocino College to the town of Mendocino and back, using 30
miles of private road. It benefits the Rotary Club. Rides were 108,
72 and 25 miles and registration was $30 to $65.
Breathe Easy Ride
A benefit for the American Lung Association, the ride is being held
on June 26. Registration is $50 and minimum fundraising is $150.
There are rides of 12, 30, 66 and 100 miles that start at Sonoma
Mountain Village in Rohnert Park. www.breatheeasyride.org
Harvest Century Bike Tour
The Healdsburg Chamber of Commerce rides of 23, 37 and 60 miles
will be held July 17 and use roads in Alexander, Dry Creek
and Russian River valleys.
Registration fees are $65 in advance and $85 after June 18.
The Aug. 15 Sebastopol-area event costs $50 to $110 for rides of
16, 35, 65 and 100 miles, with organic food at the rest stops and
dinner. It benefits OrganicAthlete.
Bike MS: Waves to Wine Ride
National Multiple Sclerosis Society rides of 40, 50, 75 and 100
miles on Sept. 25, with a two-day, 150-mile ride from San Francisco
to Healdsburg. http://
The Lakeport Rotary Club is staging its 20th annual ride Oct. 2,
with rides of 19, 30, 65 and 100 miles. Registration is $10 to $60.
Sponsored by the West Marin Senior Services, registration is $10 to
$85 for rides of 15, 35 and 100 miles. The ride is Aug. 21
and the route goes from Tomales to Bodega Bay.
Nimble Break the Cycle Ride
Sponsored by the YWCA, the ride is set for Aug. 22 and starts at
Juilliard Park in Santa Rosa. Registration is $25 and $100 for
rides of 10, 35 and 55 miles. www.ywca.org/sonomacounty
Levi Leipheimer's GranFondo
The GranFondo has routes of 30, 65 and 103 miles and will be held
Oct. 9. The major beneficiary is the organizing committee to bring
the Tour de California to Sonoma County. Registration for the
30-mile ride is still open, at $70. www.levisgranfondo.com