More than 840 000 people across Puerto Rico lost power on April 12, 2018, as the U.S. territory continues to struggle after the damage caused by Hurricane "Maria" last fall, according to island’s Electric Power Authority. The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season is less than 2 months away.
The power company said that a tree fell onto the main line supplying power to the capital, San Juan, and its surrounding communities along the northern coast, and to the southeast part of the island. The tree had fallen when crews were clearing land in Cayey, a mountain town in southeastern Puerto Rico, as part of a power-restoration project connected with the hurricane.
Puerto Ricans have dealt with the power lines failing multiple times in recent months. Since the hurricane Maria devastation six months ago, several communities near Cayey remain without power. More than 1 200 generators provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency are still the primary source of power for hospitals, more than two dozen police and fire stations, correctional facilities and water pumps across the rest of the island.
BREAKING: this is the tree that fell, according to the Puerto Rico Power Authority, cutting power to 840,000 customers in Puerto Rico. It could take 7 to 11 hours to fully restore service. pic.twitter.com/Rbme4AFjXi— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) 12. April 2018
Blackouts are common after the hurricane tore the country: One in mid-February caused by an explosion at an electrical substation left nearly 1 million around San Juan without power. Next hurricane season is less than two months away, which brings more concerns to Puerto Ricans.
On the afternoon of April 12, power slowly began returning to various parts of San Juan, said the capital’s mayor, Carmen Yulín Cruz. Backup generators powered Puerto Rico’s main public hospital and international airport.
As of 6:20ET, power has been restored to 779,000 of the 840,000 customers affected by today’s power outage in Puerto Rico.— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) 12. April 2018
It was caused when a tree branch fell on the 50900 service line.
The remaining 61,000 customers should have power within 4 hours.
Electricity back at Municipal Hospital in Centro Médico, parts of Santurce and Cupey in San Juan.— Carmen Yulín Cruz (@CarmenYulinCruz) 12. April 2018
"This is the same line that was ‘fixed’ by Whitefish," the mayor said, referring to Whitefish Energy, a small Montana firm that landed Puerto Rico’s biggest contract to restore power.
The contract was canceled after lawmakers began asking how the company, which had just two employees at the time of the storm, claimed it brought hundreds of workers and 2 500 tons of equipment to the island to make electrical repairs.
On April 11, federal officials told a congressional hearing that they hope to implement a plan by June to strengthen and stabilize Puerto Rico’s electrical grid, according to the Associated Press. The initial estimated cost to rebuild the grid is $17.6 billion, although that number could change, according to the Washington Post.
The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season officially begins June 1 and ends November 30.
Featured image: Jose M Garcia