LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Dr. Julio and Maribel Bird planned a trip to Puerto Rico nine months ago.
"and Irma came through, and we said wow it's going to be a working vacation. We're not going to be playing tennis or sunning ourselves on the beach. We'll be cleaning up," said Dr. Julio Bird.
What they didn't know was Hurricane Maria would strike the island soon after they arrived and disrupt the entire country.
"There's a lot, a lot of infrastructural damage. I mean there were mudslides, there was flooding, dams that overflowed, bridges that are no longer there, bridges that were washed away," said the Birds.
The Bird's left for Puerto Rico on September 16, planning to come back to La Crosse on September 25. But after Hurricane Maria hit the country they couldn't leave until October 6.
"Just trying to get items that most people take for granted was hard. There were huge lines to get gasoline, there were huge lines to get cash and you had to pay cash because no one was accepting credit cards and the other line was for food and many times, you spend 3 hours in line and when you went in there was nothing to buy or nothing that you could use," they said.
Because those lines were so long, the Birds had to eat whatever was available.
"We had a lot of felled trees, did I say, and we had a lot of fruit hanging around," said Julio Bird.
After spending all that time in Puerto Rico without electricity, coming back home...
"The first hot shower was just awesome," the couple laughed.
The current death toll is reported at 45 and is expected to keep rising.
The Birds said they plan to return to Puerto Rico and help out with the recovery efforts any way they can.