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Central Florida Puerto Ricans worry about Hurricane Irma's impact on island

Area is home to one of the largest Puerto Rican populations

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – Puerto Rico is bracing as Hurricane Irma barrels toward the U.S. territory as a Category 5 storm.

On Tuesday night, President Trump declared an emergency in Puerto Rico, ordering federal assistance to help with local response efforts.

"I believe in the power of prayer, and now is the moment to pray," said Phillip Arroyo, who lives in Central Florida, but whose family lives in Puerto Rico.

"They're doing as any Floridian is doing -- they're going to the grocery store, getting batteries and getting bare necessities," he said.

Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rossello declared a state of emergency for the island Monday.

More than 450 shelters will be available for residents who live in areas prone to flooding, Rossello said.

A list of the shelters can be found here.

"And now, we notice this storm, and we are like, wow," said Puerto Rico native Carlos Merced, who now works at Melao Bakery outside Kissimmee.

Merced is supposed to travel to Puerto Rico on Sunday, but he is unsure if he will be able to take off, or if a plane could even land on the island.

"We are very worried because we have all our family in Puerto Rico," Merced said. "If the hurricane continues like that, it could also impact (us) here in Florida."

Josey Rosario, also a native of Puerto Rico, owns three alteration shops in Central Florida, including outside Kissimmee. While the phone is ringing off the hook, she's urging customers to pick up their clothes before Hurricane Irma possibly comes through.

"(We're) taking our machines (and) covering them," said Rosario, who is originally from Puerto Rico. "I don't know what we're going to do, but we have to do something."

But more than just that, Rosario is worried for her family and friends back home.

"It makes me sad because Puerto Rico is going through a lot right now," she said.

Arroyo said the storm couldn't be coming at a worse time for Puerto Rico. He said the island is experiencing its worse economic crisis ever.

He said he's worried any devastation could be catastrophic for the economy.

"They are going to have issues with the power, and it's going to take a lot of months to fix," Rosario said.

Hurricane Irma is expected to hit the island Wednesday morning.


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