Hurricane María may leave much of Puerto Rico without power, governor warns
SAN JUAN – Gov. Ricardo Rosselló warned Monday that Puerto Ricans must prepare to be left without power service after Hurricane María arrives Tuesday night because of the delicate state of the electric utility’s infrastructure.
Hurricane Irma damaged the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s (Prepa) infrastructure two weeks ago, which is why some 62,000 customers are still without service, most of them (46,401) in the San Juan metropolitan area. This means that only 4% of the public utility’s customers are still without power, according to Prepa data.
“All mitigation plans are being worked on here. What can not be mitigated is the impact of a category 3 or 4 hurricane on a weak infrastructure. What is the expectation? That there will be no power here. There will be no electricity. If this happens with the force that’s being said, the expectation and that we have to be prepared for is our infrastructure will receive huge, devastating blows,” the governor said.
The length of time the population will be without power service was not given an estimate. Nor was the damage the electric grid could sustain or the time it could take to repair it.
“What [Prepa Executive Director Ricardo Ramos] is saying is he has all brigades ready to start restoring [service] as soon as he can begin to restore it,” Rosselló said during a press conference at the State Agency for Emergency and Disaster Management (Aemead).
Prepa’s director said brigades of the public corporation will be working on repair the areas affected by Irma until Tuesday morning. Other brigades have been ordered to clear power lines and perform other preparations ahead of María.
“We are filling all our fuel storage tanks to produce power at all plants. We’re removing debris. We continue clearing lines. We conducted an intensive clearing program before Irma,” Ramos said. “Our are lowering dam levels according to requirements we shared with [the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority].”
Ramos explained that the utility’s helicopters will fly over transmission lines again to identify “any weak point,” so it can be fixed by Tuesday. “We are ready,” he assured.
Already a Category 3, Hurricane María could begin to be felt Tuesday night for up to 24 hours. Maximum sustained winds of 90 miles per hour (mph) to 115 mph and gusts up to 145 mph are expected. Ten inches to 12 inches of rain, 5- to 8-feet-high storm surge and 20- to 25-foot waves are expected.