Local man with ties to Puerto Rico relieved Hurricane Dorian spares island

Heavy rains and high winds from Hurricane Dorian swept over the island of St. Thomas on Wednesday. The storm caused flooding and power outages in the Virgin Islands and neighboring Caribbean countries. 

Forecasters thought Dorian would make a direct hit on Puerto Rico, but the National Weather Service said it went north with the eye roughly 60 miles from San Juan.  

The threat of the hurricane had people on the island and their loved ones here in the Bay Area bracing for the worse. 

Restaurateur Jose Ortiz of Oakland spoke with his mother Wednesday morning and said she was nervous. "She says everybody took all the water from the supermarket." 

Ortiz is the owner of La Perla restaurant in Oakland. He was born and raised in Puerto Rico and has a lot of family members who are still on the island.

He showed us pictures from two years ago, when he and a group of volunteers visited the U.S. territory and handed out supplies, shortly after hurricanes Maria and Irma ripped across the island. 

"Everybody is feeling nervous. Because they already went through Hurricane Maria, and Hurricane Irma and they lost everything. Not only physically but mentally," he said. 

When news broke that Dorian was headed towards Puerto Rico, people began boarding up their homes and stocking up on supplies. 

Just two years removed from those hurricanes, Ortiz said the people of Puerto Rico have learned a lot, especially about rebuilding their country.  

"We still got people that probably don't have electricity. They don't have a roof over their house. They still are using the blue tarp," said Ortiz.

Ortiz said five shelters were opened in his hometown of Toa Baja to house people from Dorian.  

Forecasters expect it will strengthen as it heads towards the U.S. mainland with landfall expected over the holiday weekend.