TAMPA (FOX 13) - Hurricane Maria's damage to Puerto Rico is becoming clearer now that the federal government is publishing aerial photos taken during recent survey flights.
Imagery posted on an interactive map was taken by NOAA's Remote Sensing Division to support homeland security and emergency response needs after the storm. The photos - taken during long sweeps by airplanes between September 22 and September 26 - show a street-level view of much of the coast of Puerto Rico, but not the interior of the island.
Neighboring islands, including the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, were also included in the surveys.
LINK: See NOAA's damage map
The imagery reveals significant damage to homes and businesses all around the island, along with downed trees and muddy runoff along the shores.
Hurricane Maria, the strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in nearly 100 years, began tearing across the island early in the morning of September 20 as a Category 4 storm with winds of 155 mph. It destroyed the entire electricity grid while grinding up homes, businesses, roads and farms. At least 16 people were killed.
There still is no exact tally of the cost and full extent of the damage, but Gov. Ricardo Rossello says it will bring a complete halt to the economy for at least a month.
"This is the single biggest, major catastrophe in the history of Puerto Rico, bar none, and it is probably the biggest hurricane catastrophe in the United States," Rossello said Wednesday as he delivered aid to the southern town of Salinas, whose mayor says 100 percent of the agriculture there was wiped out when the wind tore up plantain, corn, vegetables and other crops.
On Thursday the Trump administration announced it was waiving the Jones Act, a little-known federal law that prohibits foreign-flagged ships from shuttling goods between U.S. ports, for Puerto Rico. Republicans and Democrats have pushed for the move, saying it could help get desperately needed supplies to the island more quickly and at less cost.
NOAA's interactive damage map can be found at https://storms.ngs.noaa.gov/storms/maria/index.html. Note that it may be easier to navigate the site from a desktop computer instead of a mobile device.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.