Puerto Rico electric utility director says islandwide blackout imminent
SAN JUAN – The executive director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa), Ricardo Ramos, anticipated Tuesday that the impact of Hurricane Irma will result in an islandwide blackout Wednesday and Thursday.
According to the National Weather Service’s (NMS) 11 a.m. report, the Category 5 hurricane had maximum sustained winds of 180 miles per hour (mph) and continued its westward movement at 14 mph.
“Due to a lack of maintenance for many years, sometimes with 50 mph or 60 mph winds, we have significant infrastructure losses. That doesn’t result in total outages but certainly regional outages.
With this type of storm, with these types of winds, we can virtually guarantee that, unfortunately, we are going to have a general blackout,” the official said in a WKAQ 580 radio interview.
Ramos explained that the power utility has enough materials to carry out restoration work up to 45 days following an emergency. Afterwad, Prepa would have to receive support from the American Public Power Association.
“That is enough and follows the standard asked of us. We should begin receiving the materials we requested within 45 days. It is difficult to predict how much damage there will be but the damage will certainly extensive, meaning they will be significant. But we know that, which is what matters,” he assured.
“All the requirements for materials, additional personnel, trucks, heavy machinery have already been sent; so the good thing is we know it. And that the people, well, we have also been very transparent in letting them know the vulnerable condition of our systems due to a lack of maintenance,” Ramos stated.
For his part, meteorologist Jesús Figueroa of the National Meteorology Service said in an interview with the same station that the hurricane will leave between 5 inches and 10 inches of rain. Some areas could see more than 15 inches in a period of 24 hours to 36 hours. The expert also warned that the entire island will feel tropical storm winds starting at noon Wednesday. The northern and eastern parts of the island will have Category 1 hurricane winds, subject to changes in Irma’s trajectory.
Figueroa explained that tomorrow, Wednesday, at about 5 p.m., the hurricane will be 41 miles from Culebra, where he anticipated “catastrophic damage” will occur.