The Island could receive the first tropical storm of the season tonight, while trying to keep contagions and deaths from coronavirus at bay. Amid the tropical storm warning, hundreds of thousands were without light last night due to a problem that the Electric Power Authority (PREPA) could not identify.
Last night, the atmospheric system did not yet have an identified center and had not become in tropical storm. The biggest concern with the possible impact of the system, which was moving at 25 miles per hour, is the rain it could leave behind.
Governor Wanda Vázquez assured yesterday that the shelters would be ready to receive citizens and with the due distancing. He assured that there are 324 shelters in which about 41,276 people can be cared for. However, a large part of these shelters – some 81 – do not have a cistern or a generator. There are 116 shelters with cistern and generator. He advanced that he sent the President of the United States, Donald Trump "the intention of declaring a state of emergency due to the probability that the system will touch the Island. It corresponds to a statement that will allow all expenses for this emergency to be covered by FEMA ”
The governor ordered that public employees be able to come to protect agencies and workplaces, but only until noon. Starting at noon, these employees must be at home. The curfew, the governor reported, will continue in effect from 10:00 pm, but not in the event that a person needs to move to a safe place.
“Certainly we have had to experience several emergencies at the same time, but we are working to get ready. I want them to be serene. Let's keep calm. I am here to take all the necessary measures to have all the resources so that the people have a quick response, "said the governor. "Puerto Ricans have shown that we are prepared and I am here to protect my people. We are strong, resilient and we will get ahead. ”
Blackout for 100,000 subscribers
José Ortiz, executive director of PREPA, said last night that they could not identify any reason for the lines to fall, leaving thousands without light. He recognized that the rain event would also leave many others without service.
“It was detected as an event that arose in Isabela. When we went to patrol, we did not see anything until Mayagüez and Arecibo, no problems were found. The lines were turned on again and we are waiting for EcoElectrica to come into service, "said Ortiz. “Nothing was found to provoke him. What was seen is that the three lines made a short circuit between the three lines. The engineers were dispatched, they were checking and not a single problem was found. There is nothing anywhere. We are very suspicious and we are going to collect the data for analysis. ”
His expectation is that last night the electric power service would be restored. But, then he recognized that he could leave again if the system passes.
“With the system that comes, we must hope that yes, that some system may fall in some sector where there may be some wind that touches a cable. I have brigades all morning – from Wednesday to Thursday – to try to be attended to as quickly as possible, "said Ortiz.
Hours before the press conference began and without knowing for sure the direction that the storm, hundreds of thousands of people ran out of light when EcoEllectrica went out of operations. Ángel Figueroa Jaramillo, president of the Union of Workers in the Electricity and Irrigation Industry (UTIER) reported that the departure of this plant caused a deficiency of 500 megawatts and that subscribers without electricity exceeded 100,000.
Villages like Arecibo, Aguadilla , Naranjito, Mayagüez, Hatillo and Juana Díaz were left without electricity. As recently as last month, Vázquez and the Electric Power Authority (PREPA) praised the system, when they assured that it was robust and highlighted the materials and trucks that they had managed to store.
Concern about the rain
Roberto García, director of the National Weather Service said last night that the most significant consequence of this system will be rain, which could produce between three to six inches and up to 10 inches in other areas such as the Cordillera Central and Sierra de Luquillo. It could arrive in winds of up to 45 miles, but the hurricane-hunting aircraft had not identified a center in the extensive system yesterday.
“This can cause flash floods in much of Puerto Rico and especially in the hillside regions of the south, southeast and the Sierra de Luquillo ”, said García. “We can have a high probability of landslides. People living in flood areas have time to make the best possible decision. ”
The acting director of the Bureau of Emergency Management and Disaster Administration (NMEAD), Nino Correa, assured yesterday yesterday that the shelters are mostly ready. On the south, where schools were affected by earthquakes, he said that there are “other alternatives.”
“Today we have to temper everything at Covid. There are some schools in the southern area that, depending on the rain, will not be used as refuge centers. There are alternate things we are going to work on, community centers, warehouses, hotels, motels. There is something clear and that is that social distancing is important in any place where we put people in as a refuge, "said Correa.
He urged citizens to take action in time if they know they live in flood areas.
" It is important that you know the area where you live. If it is a flood zone, take that into consideration, "he said. “With earthquakes we have not turned the page either.”
Correa gave a press conference in the afternoon yesterday in which he tried to say that the system that is coming does not bear similarities to Hurricane Maria, which in 2017 hit the Island.
The services of the Maritime Transportation Authority, except for one boat, were stopped and the Department of Consumer Affairs (DACO) froze the prices of items such as storm shutters and other essential items. This is in addition to the price freeze already in force for other items, such as those related to Covid-19.