Multiple reports on Wednesday afternoon claimed the entire island of Puerto Rico was without power after Hurricane Maria slammed into the island with maximum sustained winds of up to 140 mph.
Local Spanish language publication El Nuevo Dia reported the outage, citing Abner Gomez, managing director of Puerto Rico’s State Agency for Emergency Management and Disaster Management (AEMEAD).
SEGUN DIRECTOR DE MANEJO DE EMERGENCIA, PUERTO RICO ESTÁ AL 100℅ SIN ENERGÍA ELÉCTRICA.
— RUBEN SERRANO (@GUARETO1) September 20, 2017
Those reports eventually began to trickle in via the office to U.S. and international media outlets, as well.
According to the most recent U.S. Census, Puerto Rico is home to just over 3.4 million people who will now have to navigate the post-Maria days without power and with no word as to how long it’ll take to restore that power.
The complete outage isn’t a surprise, however. Governor Ricardo Rossello said he expected it just as the storm prepared to make landfall. The reason: a dilapidated and already-failing utility infrastructure.
Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), the island’s sole power company, filed for bankruptcy in July after years of sliding that left it with $9 billion in bond debt.
And according to Reuters, the median age of Puerto Rico’s power plants is 44 years old, ancient by industry standards. Just last September, a fire at one of these dilapidated plants knocked out power across the entire island with nearly half the island without power for a week.
Image: PREPA internal document
These old plants power the island by burning imported oil, a drain on the island’s economy that has made its rates so expensive that Hawaii is the only U.S. state where energy costs more. And there are tons of other issues, from customer service to safety problems.
It also doesn’t help that Hurricane Irma side-swiped the island just one week ago, knocking out power to at least a million people.
And now that Maria has hit, engulfing nearly the entire island with hurricane-force winds, that aging, already-damaged infrastructure is likely completely devastated, meaning the entire island could be without power for days, if not weeks, to come.
This is a developing story…