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Puerto Rico 18 Months after Hurricane Maria
|It was actually two storms. First on September 5, 2017, like a boxer’s uppercut designed to throw the opponent off balance, Hurricane Irma swept across the Puerto Rico, knocking out some of the most vulnerable pieces of the power grid. Nearly one-third of residents were in the dark. Two weeks later came the knock-out punch – Hurricane Maria.
With winds up to 175 miles per hour and storm surge in excess of 9 feet, the category 5 monster essentially took down power for the whole island.
When confronted with forces like that, it’s difficult to say how monitoring technology might have helped avoid or minimize damage. But it’s easy to imagine the advantages during recovery.
The Puerto Rico Electrical Power Authority (PREPA) has been challenged like almost no other Utility on earth. Already weakened by years of financial shortfalls, the ability of PREPA to prepare for this kind of natural disaster was limited. Making matters worse: the reality of being on an island. Even in the 21st century physical isolation makes timely physical repairs difficult.
There were heroes at PREPA. One was a boiler-room employee named Jorge Bracero.
It wasn’t an official or ideal communication plan. But it makes the point that more and better monitoring is key to knowing where problems lie, and how to quickly bring technology back online.
Puerto Rico has worked tirelessly since the hurricanes. With help from some outside resources, including an ongoing the commitment from New York State, the island has bounced back much more quickly by some measures than other storm-ravaged cities such as New Orleans. Yet a short visit or flyover reveals how much structural work remains. Roofs remain ripped from the tops of random buildings. Concrete piers, public parks and high-rise buildings show visible damage. And downed power poles lie next to hastily raised new ones.
Electricity was officially 100% restored in August 2018. But Puerto Rico’s restoration work is far from finished. The goal: to rebuild infrastructure stronger, smarter and more resilient than ever.
Before tragedy strikes in your region, let’s take a look at your approach to grid and plant monitoring. Contact Qualitrol today.
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