Puerto Rico Power Outage Knocks Out Electricity to 870,000

Associated Press
Published: April 12, 2018

Months after Hurricane Maria plunged the entire island of Puerto Rico into darkness, a fallen tree again knocked out power for 870,000 homes and businesses on Thursday.

The outage occurred when the tree fell and knocked out the main line that supplies power to the Puerto Rican capital of San Juan and surrounding areas, all the way from the island's northern coast to the southeast, the Electric Power Authority said Thursday. The outage forced the island's main public hospital and the international airport to switch to backup generators.

Crews were clearing land in the southeastern mountain town of Cayey as they continued efforts to restore power to residents who have gone more than six months without electricity. Prior to the outage, more than 50,000 homes and businesses were still yet to have power restored from the hurricane, according to the U.S. territory's government.

(MORE: 10 Jaw-Dropping Findings from the NHC's Final Hurricane Maria Report)

Though weather conditions were not believed to be responsible for the outage, moderate winds were also present during the incident.

"Winds in Puerto Rico were gusty during the late-morning hours into the afternoon with frequent gusts over 20 mph," said weather.com meteorologist Jonathan Belles.

The announcement sparked outrage across social media from people who said they are fed up with ongoing outages and demanded a permanent fix to that line, which has failed several times in recent months. Some people riding on San Juan’s electric-powered rapid transit system got stuck and had to get out and walk along the rails. Shops and movie theaters at the island’s largest mall had to close.

Left without air conditioning, barber shops and other businesses threw open their doors as employees kept working. Among them was the restaurant Casa Manolo in San Juan, which doesn’t have a generator. It kept cooking on gas stoves for the 30 customers dining at the time of the outage.

“You get used to it,” said owner Manolo Piqueres. “The sun comes out eventually.”

Fredyson Martinez, vice president of a union that represents power company workers, said in a phone interview that another line the company was trying to use to help back up the main line also failed on Thursday for unknown reasons.

Puerto Rico is still relying on nearly 900 of the more than 2,000 temporary generators installed by federal officials after the storm. Backup generators at the island’s main public hospital and international airport kicked in following Thursday’s outage.

Across the island, more than 50,000 customers of the 1.47 million remain in the dark since the Category 4 storm struck on Sept. 20 and destroyed up to 75 percent of distribution lines.

Federal officials said Wednesday they expect to have a plan to strengthen and stabilize the power grid by June for an initial estimated cost of $17.6 billion.

 


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