Thursday, September 2, 2010

Reality Check

The passing of Hurricane Earl this past Monday revealed just how weak the island's infrastructure is, not to mention how unprepared the government is in dealing with emergency situations. Although the island was not directly hit by Earl, it passed 150 miles Northeast of San Juan, it caused power outages at nearly 200,000 homes and over 30,000 are without running water. The government's decision to end the work day at noon, and public schools at 1PM, caused major traffic jams. Gov. Fortuno even issued an apology on the government's poor judgement. Exacerbating the situation was the outage of traffic lights located at some of the most heavily transited intersections of the San Juan metro area. To put it lightly, it was mayhem on Monday.

Beginning in the morning, the island experienced strong periods of rain and wind gusts of up to 135 mph. There were many fallen tree branches on my street as I headed to work the next day, on Tuesday morning. My family and I were fortunate enough not to have been severely affected by Earl though, we have both electricity and running water at our home. I did see an explosion of an electric post not very far from our house on Monday night. The entire street went dark shortly thereafter. We lost power for about five minutes. Unfortunately, three days after Earl, I still have friends and acquaintances who are living without electricity. Miguel Cordero, the director of Puerto Rico's power electric company (la Autoridad Energía Eléctrica), blames the power outages on fallen trees caused by the strong wind gusts. With all due respect to Mr. Cordero, I think he needs a reality check.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that the island's electric grid system is in desperate need of an upgrade. In fact, this is an investment that's long overdue. Anyone who has lived, or still lives in Puerto Rico will very likely have experienced power outages at home or come across the occasional traffic light without power. Such occurrences were not precipitated by fallen trees, but due to a very antiquated electric grid system. An estimated 90% of the island's power is distributed via above ground electric lines. Should Earl have directly hit the island, the consequences would have undoubtedly been a lot worse.

According to meteorologists, this hurricane season looks to be quite active. The island is already bracing for another possible hurricane, Gaston. September has historically been the peak of the hurricane season for Puerto Rico. Perhaps we can apply some of Earl's lessons in preparing for the next storm. For starters, let's not send everyone home at the same time!

(The images above were obtained from


Kofla Olivieri said...

It amazes me the level of our government incompetence. After all these years of being threatened by hurricanes the island should be more than prepared. Saludos!

Reinaldo said...

People look at Katrina in New Orleans .Lack of organization was worst than any hurracaine ever happened in PR