Another Massive Blackout Struck Puerto Rico Last Night…But We Aren’t Getting the Whole Story

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By the author of Be Ready for Anything and the online course Bloom Where You’re Planted

Last night, an explosion at a San Juan power plant regressed Puerto Rico’s efforts to restore power to the island five months after Hurricane Maria struck a massive blow. Much of Northern Puerto Rico has suffered another blackout, including the capital city.

The island’s Electric Power Authority said several municipalities were without power, including parts of the capital, San Juan, but they were optimistic it could be restored within a day as they worked to repair a substation that controls voltage…

…It was not immediately known what caused Sunday’s fire, which was quickly extinguished. Officials said the explosion knocked two other substations offline and caused a total loss of 400 megawatts worth of generation. (source)

But according to at least one Puerto Rican, we aren’t getting the whole story from the media about these outages. A reader named Jennifer from Manati told me:

What the news ain’t saying is that we actually had three power grids down. The first one was the Cambalache power station in Arecibo. This left the whole north area without power.

Then Palo Second station went down. This second power station connects power from the north to the capital.

Afterwards, we had an explosion in Monacillos. This one effected mayor hospitals, airport and capital.
For some reason the government and news want people to believe that everything is well and running that things are almost back to normal when that ain’t the truth. All you have to do is visit cities outside from the metropolitan area to see the reality we are living.

And even worse, before this explosion, more than a million people were still without power from the Category 4 hurricane that struck the island on Sept. 20, 2017. They’ve been thrown back in time by a hundred years, with no power, no running water, and damaged homes.

This is a prime example of how disasters aren’t just one-time occurrences. They’re very often followed by subsequent disasters.

Think about it. Fires are often followed by floods which are followed by mudslides and sinkholes. (See California for reference.)  The tsunami in Japan was followed by a nuclear plant disaster. Hurricane Harvey in Texas had storm surges and floods that caused a chemical plant to explode a few days later. Now, this already-stressed infrastructure has crumbled again under it’s increasing demand.

Power has been restored to a few critical locations.

This is one situation in which living in a more populated area can benefit you. After last night’s explosion, workers were quick to restore power to specific locations.

By late Sunday, electricity workers had been able to restore power to key locations, including the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in Carolina, as well as the Medical Center. (source)

As well, after Hurricane Maria, the first areas to resume some form of normalcy were the ones with higher population. San Juan saw it’s power restored immediately but people in more remote areas are still waiting. And not just a few people.

Vox estimated that 1.36 million Americans are still without electricity. You’ll see other numbers that say 400,000, but that is counting households, not individuals.

The US Army Corps of Engineers… estimated that Puerto Rico would need 50,000 utility poles and 6,500 miles of cable to restore its power system…

…When an electrical circuit is open or broken, the power doesn’t flow, whether that’s a flashlight or a phone.

It’s a simple concept, but when it happens in the electricity grid — what engineers say is the largestmost complex machine ever built — it quickly becomes a byzantine problem.

With thousands of miles of transmission lines, gigawatts of generation, computers that route power, frequency regulators, and transformers that all serve the constantly fluctuating needs of millions of people, lots of things can go wrong. Generators can shut down. Transformers can explode. Power demand and supply can fall out of balance.

By far the most common cause of blackouts is damage to power lines, which are the most vulnerable part of the electrical grid to storms.

“In a disruption like this, it’s transmission and distribution,” Marsters said. “Damage does occur to generation assets, but those are point specific and you can get those back online in a reasonable time.”

…Puerto Ricans are now desperately trying to connect the main power arteries to individual homes, and some have resorted to their own makeshift repairs, mounting their own utility poles and stringing up low-voltage transmission lines. (source)

But even before Hurricane Maria made landfall, things with the infrastructure were dire.

The power grid in Puerto Rico was in rough shape BEFORE Maria

Even before the hurricane devastated the island, the infrastructure was in terrible shape, a fact underlined by last night’s explosion.

The blast illustrated the challenges of restoring a power grid that was already crumbling before it was devastated by the Category 4 hurricane.

In many cases, power workers are repairing equipment that should have long been replaced but remained online due to the power authority’s yearslong financial crisis. PREPA is worth roughly $4 billion, carries $9 billion in debt and has long been criticized for political patronage and inefficiency. It also struggled with frequent blackouts, including an island-wide outage in September 2016.  (source)

Before Maria made landfall, I wrote an article that predicted a long haul to get power restored.

It’s entirely possible that Hurricane Maria will put the island in the dark for quite some time to come, completely changing their way of life. 70,000 people are still without power from their bout with Irma, and much more damage to the utility system is expected. Gov. Rossello said:

“We will not have sustainable electric infrastructure in the near future. We will be bringing in crews from outside of Puerto Rico to attend to these measures.”(source)

Philipe Schoene Roura, the editor of a San Juan, Puerto Rico-based newspaper, Caribbean Business, wrote:

Prepa Executive Director Ricardo Ramos Rodríguez recently said the powerlines carrying electricity in the public corporation’s system are in such a deteriorated state that a strong storm could leave the island without power for weeks.

“To give you a number, if during Hurricane Georges 100 lines went down in 1998, today the same [kind of ] hurricane would bring down 1,000,” the official candidly told Caribbean Business when asked about the possibility of Prepa’s system effectively withstanding the onslaught of a similar storm.

“The lifespan of most of Prepa’s equipment has expired. There is a risk that in light of this dismal infrastructure situation, a large atmospheric event hitting Puerto Rico could wreak havoc because we are talking about a very vulnerable and fragile system at the moment,” Ramos added…

…Francisco Guerrero (a fictitious name to protect his identity), a Prepa field worker for 23 years, said it would take months for Prepa to bring up Puerto Rico’s power system should a hurricane like Harvey strike the island.

The lack of linemen and other technical personnel, as well as a lack of equipment—including replacement utility poles for powerlines and replacement parts—are the issues of greatest concern among public corporation employees, who say they risk their lives working with equipment in poor condition that provides them with little safety.

Guerrero said that today only 580 linemen remain out of the 1,300 who were part of the workforce in previous years—and that’s not counting the upcoming retirement of another 90 linemen. Likewise, he said there are only 300 electrical line testers to serve the entire island.

The source also said that much of Prepa’s equipment dates back to the 1950s—and the more “modern” equipment that is still functional dates from the 1990s; in other words, it’s from the past century.

“If a hurricane like this one [Harvey] hits us, the system is not going to come online, I’d say, in over six months. Right now, the warehouses don’t even have materials. I’m talking about utility poles and other stuff,” Guerrero explained.

“How can you say that you have equipment that dates back to the 1950s and you are not buying parts to repair them? When it’s time for maintenance work, you don’t have the part and you leave things as they are, but there is an entry in the log saying maintenance was done. And yes, it was done, but the most important thing was not done, which was to replace that part,” he added.

Although he did not assign the debacle to former Prepa Chief Restructuring Officer Lisa Donahue’s order to stop buying supplies as the main cause for the lack of materials, he is certain the order was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” (source)

Many people thought it was a ridiculous premise and that power would be up and running within a couple of weeks. But it turns out, that was cognitive dissonance. This situation is all the proof you need to see that things can change overnight.

Go watch this video to see what everyday life is like in Puerto Rico for nearly half a million people.

Do you think things will ever be the same in Puerto Rico?

Have the residents of the island been permanently thrown back into Third World status? Will the power ever be fully restored? And considering they’re Americans too, isn’t it rather embarrassing that we aren’t doing more to aid in the recovery?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

More information about the Puerto Rican crisis:

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Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3), an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

Leave a Reply

  • Tramp, sorry Trump, turned his back on PR because they did not go for him in the elections. The cause of the fire, look to Trump people because they think PR is a “shit hole country”. Will PR ever be the same again: Never, they were domed from the beginning, to much debt, to much wasteful spending

  • The electrical outtage is the result of greed: on the part of local politicians, corporate bigwigs, and graft in every direction. The people of Puerta Rico are hard working, honest, and ambitious. But anytime elected idiots, grasping business fools, and corporate ladder climbers get together, it is an “us versus them” mentality. (See Hilliary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Chelsea Clinton, James Comey, George Bush, the FBI, NSA-ad nauseum, etc. in the Former USA.) They aren’t suffering without power-but the Deplorables are. I’m hoping those that are able, will get their own solar power going. It can be a hassle but better than relying on “government” to help you! Also, Amazon carries the Luci Outdoor 2.0 – Inflatable Solar Light. It is $20 but is pretty indestructible, lightweight, safe, and is a rechargeable solar. Better than candles, oil lamps, etc. and I keep several packed away in bags and in drawers in case of a disaster locally.
    This hurricane-which is a natural occurrence on any island-should be a warning to everyone. Get prepared, be able to provide for your own, and don’t expect to be rescued, helped, fed, or protected! Get bonded with your family and your community. When a disaster occurs no government is capable of being Big Daddy. Despite what they want you to believe!

    • Your last paragraph was very well put!

      I used to hear the words “personal responsibility” occasionally in the mainstream but not so much anymore.

  • It is utterly shameful that we aren’t helping our fellow citizens a lot more! I think it’s a national disgrace.

  • PR was a barely functioning jurisdiction long before Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and blaming Trump for this decades-old situation is ridiculous. I was on PR in Sept 2016 during their weeklong island-wide blackout and I don’t remember anyone blaming Obama for that. PR will now get billions from FEMA for infrastructure repair (so much for Trump turning his back on PR) which will be used to finally perform repairs and maintenance neglected for decades. PR is a badly (self)governed, badly (self)managed jurisdiction, like California. I do think there is a lesson here that if you live in a jurisdiction that is barely functional in the best of times, that you make plans to move, or if you stay, plan to be as self-reliant as possible.

    • This!!!! The only thing I’ll add is all the un-checked corruption that goes on there as well which leads to my next statement:
      We need to make sure that all the FEMA money (taxpayer dollars) does what it is intended to do rather than wind up in the wrong hands…

  • I wonder if PR’s gov. would accept help if offered. I know that the U.S.National Guard has achieved wonders during ice storms and floods on U.S. soil. However, sending people to work in PR would be sending them to unsanitary, unhealthy conditions requiring incredible support structure to be able to work there . A gargantuan effort just to get food, equipment and the manpower there. Are the taxpayers willing to foot the bill for a complete infrastructure replacement of the power grid in Puerto Rico? PR should have implemented solar power, desalinization, decent housing and medical care long before the hurricane. Maybe a few million from the Clinton Foundation could be a start. Follow the money and see where the donations for PR went when the Clintons were helping their friends make money off of PR. All the people who sent money to them should be asking for an accounting……..

  • Remember that President Obama passed a $1,400,000,000,000 (1.4 trillion) infer structure bill and we are told that America’s infer structure is falling apart (I know not a shovel ready as the President said) and needs another 1.5 trillion dollars for the same reasons. According to news reports the federal government pays for only 14% of America’s total infer structure. Unfortunately, PR could simply be a foreboding of what could happen in the States for a number of reasons.

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