Puerto Ricans thankful to be in Central Florida for Thanksgiving

By: Lauren Seabrook

Updated:

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Orlando is the top destination in the country for the Thanksgiving holiday, but Central Florida is also in the middle of a great migration of evacuees from Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.

So many Puerto Ricans are in Central Florida looking for a new life.

"It's very horrible. It's terrible. I mean we are going through tough, tough times there (Puerto Rico),” Gumersindo Lopez said.    

Read: FEMA evacuee hotel list

Since the hurricane devastated the island, more than 80,000 evacuees have relocated to Central Florida.

Many arrive at Orlando International Airport and go to the welcome center for help on housing, employment, food and education. However, the welcome center is closed through Monday.

Many evacuees are living in hotels. The United Way said it spent more than $110,000 to temporarily house Puerto Ricans; FEMA said it has spent even more money on housing.

Read: FEMA housing assistance

Lopez told Channel 9’s Lauren Seabrook that he plans to go back to Puerto Rico so he can work and help the island return to normalcy.

"I kind of feel for my people in Puerto Rico and we'll be good. We'll rise again and we'll be good,” Lopez said. "I'm thankful for being alive after the horrible hurricane that we had in Puerto Rico. It was very destructive. It was hard. I'm happy to be alive and I'm very, very happy to come and see my kids.”

Read: FEMA assistance following hurricane

Next Up: