Berks residents fear for family members in Maria's path

'I hope they take care of themselves'

READING, Pa. - Tuesday was the calm before the storm, as people on Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands boarded up their homes and businesses. Hurricane Maria is expected to bear down on them Wednesday; their families in Berks County are looking on from far away in despair.

"It's not easy for us to stay here and they are there," said Miriam Yvonne-Ortiz of Reading.

Yvonne-Ortiz, originally from Puerto Rico, has daughters and granddaughters on the island, which is expected to feel the wrath of a Category 5 hurricane before fully recovering from Irma, which hit just last week.

"I know they are afraid today. The storm is coming, and I hope they take care of themselves," she said.

Yvonne-Ortiz spends her days at the Hispanic Center of Reading's Senior Center downtown. Many people there, including Lydia Collado, have relatives who are directly in the path of Hurricane Maria.

"It hurts me because I want to help them more. I want to be there," Collado said.

Collado has family in the Dominican Republic, which isn't expected to get hit as hard as other islands, but Collado said after Hurricane Irma, her family is constantly nervous

"They told me they are very scared. Every time it rains, they think it's going to come back," said the Reading resident.

Collado said her family is staying put for the hurricane, despite warnings

"Some of them are afraid to leave because they are too poor to lose whatever they have. Even though they told them they must leave, some of them are staying, knowing that they are risking their lives," she said.

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