When the category 1 Hurricane Fiona descended on Puerto Rico on Sept. 18, it brought with it a mix of devastating winds, rains and flooding that local transmission and distribution operator LUMA confirmed brought island-wide outages.
By 5:30 a.m. on Monday, company crews and contractors had restored power to more than 100,000 customers in the municipalities of San Juan, Bayamon Corozal, Toa Alta and Toa Baja, and as of 12:30 p.m.Tuesday, those numbers had surged to more than 300,000. Efforts to restore and reenergize the grid are ongoing, and LUMA continues to work with lingering remnants of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) and private generators to move forward.
“We want our customers to know that LUMA has been and will continue to work around the clock to restore power to Puerto Rico following the island-wide outage that began early Sunday afternoon,” Abner Gómez, LUMA public safety manager, said in a statement. “We will continue to work non-stop until every customer is restored and the entire grid is reenergized. While these efforts continue over the coming days, we strongly encourage customers to continue to exercise caution and stay away from any downed powerlines.”
In the wake of Fiona, LUMA deployed 1,648 utility field crews and another 339 contractor resources to respond. These crews have been divided into a variety of efforts, from construction to transmission lines, substation work, low voltage, vegetation management and aviation.
According to the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), open channels of communication are being maintained with LUMA to maintain situational awareness of the hurricane’s impact on Puerto Rico.
“Initial damage assessments will get underway once the hurricane has cleared the island and it is safe for crews to be in the field,” Scott Aaronson, EEI’s senior vice president of security and preparedness, said. “U.S. electric companies on the mainland will continue to engage with our government partners and system operators in Puerto Rico throughout the assessment and restoration process.”
This latest disaster comes after Hurricane Maria in 2017 inflicted severe setbacks on the island, to a degree that many places have yet to recover. That devastation led to the destruction of PREPA’s network at the time and the eventual sale of its electric grid to LUMA in 2020. As a result, LUMA has operated and managed the electric power transmission and distribution system in Puerto Rico since June 1, 2021.
“It is unacceptable that five years after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico is still in such a precarious situation,” Daniel Whittle, senior director of Caribbean initiatives for the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), said. “The current energy crisis is dire, and Puerto Ricans and the island’s economy are still taking a hit. We urge the government and the corresponding parties to find concrete solutions and take swift and effective action to resolve the situation.”
EDF noted that combined with the lingering damage from Maria, Fiona has caused additional setbacks to local communities that will require significantly more time and resources for recovery as a result.
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