Rebecca Gutierrez and her husband washed clothes in the creek behind their home in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. 

(Courtesy Rebecca Gutierrez)

Just eight months ago, Rebecca Gutierrez and her husband bought a home in Puerto Rico. He's from the island, and she shared her childhood between there and Chicago. Gutierrez says she wanted to be with her aging parents and her siblings, and she longed for the lush and tropical climate of Puerto Rico.

She says those eight months were a dream that finally came true. Now, she's living a nightmare. After nearly two weeks without power and clean water, Gutierrez left the island. She's staying in Colorado with her niece as a refugee of Hurricane Maria.

Rebecca Gutierrez's brother sat amid the rubble left by Hurricane Maria.

(Courtesy Rebecca Gutierrez)

The death toll from the natural disaster has reached 48.

"I could not believe we were living this experience," Gutierrez says. "I was crying all of the time, and I was trying to hide it from my husband. And then I would be fine, then I would start crying again."

Gutierrez spoke with Colorado Matters host Andrea Dukakis about surviving the storm, and her desire to return to the island. 

Audio for this story will be available after noon on Tuesday.