The situation in the territories, particularly Puerto Rico, are still pretty bad. Most of Puerto Rico is still in the dark, which should not be much of a surprise to those of you who have been following the situation:
Category 4 Hurricane Maria destroyed Puerto Rico’s aged and fragile power grid on Sept. 20, ripping it apart with sustained winds of 155 mph and leaving the Caribbean island’s 3.4 million residents completely in the dark.
It’s believed to be the biggest blackout in U.S. history, according to New York-based research firm Rhodium Group. Measured by customer-hours of lost electricity service, Maria has so far disrupted 1.25 billion hours of electricity supply for citizens of U.S territory Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Roughly 70 percent of Puerto Rico’s residents are still without power.
While some progress had been made restoring power in Puerto Rico, there has been a scramble to regroup since the Puerto Rico government’s Oct. 29 cancellation of a $300 million contract with tiny Whitefish Energy Holdings of Montana. PREPA gave the company the required 30 days notice of cancellation after criticism of the contract’s terms and the company’s qualifications grew.
Whitefish Energy officials said in a statement that the decision would delay the power restoration it began Oct. 2.
I believe Whitefish’s statement here. The fact of the matter is that, whether or not they are qualified or unqualified, the pace of the reconstruction will now have to slow down as Whitefish pulls out and whoever replaces them goes in and sets up their own men, material, and equipment.
I’ve generally been disgusted with the politicization of the repair efforts in Puerto Rico, and this is a good illustration as to why. In an attempt to score political points against Trump, the Democrats and Puerto Ricans forced out a contractor, which means Puerto Rican citizens will be in the dark even longer. This is even worse than what went on during Katrina.
The US Virgin Islands, notably, is doing much better in some places than Puerto Rico is, despite being in an even worse situation in some ways:
During his press briefing on Monday, Governor Kenneth Mapp revealed that 38 percent of St. Thomas, 19 percent of St. Croix and 14 percent of St. John had been restored with power.
This is in spite of WAPA, the Virgin Islands’ main utility, having suffered a revenue collapse:
The Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority, in financial hardship long before Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck the USVI at Cat 5 strength, told Congress on Thursday that the utility, which generated monthly revenues of $26.5 million before the storms, had diminished to $2 million, placing WAPA in a precarious position and in desperate need of continued federal funding — it has already received $24 million from FEMA — as it continues to restore the territory, with aid from over 500 linemen from across the U.S. mainland.
“The V. I. Water and Power Authority has recurring expenses such as payroll, insurance, operation and maintenance of the plants, debt service, previously executed contracts, as well as financing agreements we must pay. To address these expenses, the authority through the Government of the U.S. Virgin Islands, has sought a Community Disaster Loan. Any support or assistance that you can offer in this regard is appreciated,” Mr. Rhymer said.
Mr. Rhymer gave the committee a brief history of how the utility operates, then spoke of the storms’ impact on WAPA, revealing that Hurricane Irma on September 6, destroyed 80 percent of WAPA’s transmission and distribution systems in St. Thomas, and 90 percent of the same in St. John. Hurricane Irma caused only minimal interruptions on St. Croix, but with Maria’s passage two weeks later, St. Croix’s transmission and distribution systems suffered 60 percent damage.
I think we will not see normal life begin to resume in the Virgin Islands until after Christmas. In Puerto Rico, it may be early spring given how badly the repair efforts there are going.