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Puerto Rico suffers islandwide blackout 7 months after Maria's rampage

By Jennifer Fabiano, AccuWeather staff writer
April 19, 2018, 8:29:48 AM EDT

Puerto Rico suffered an islandwide power outage on Wednesday morning. While this is the first total blackout, Puerto Rico has been struggling with an “increasingly unstable power grid” ever since Hurricane Maria in September, according to the Associated Press (AP).

The blackout occurred when private contractor hit a transmission line with an excavator while removing a collapsed tower during an unrelated power restoration project on Wednesday, according to Justo Gonzalez, Puerto Rico's Electric Power Authority executive sub-director.

Puerto Rico gas line 2

Cars line up at a gas station in Puerto Rico amid an island-wide blackout. (Photo/Kimberly Ríos)

This is the second major outage in less than a week. On April 12, a tree fell on a power line as crews were working to clear land in central Puerto Rico. A backup line, which would have prevented that outage, failed.

The outage last week affected around 840,000 customers. The island has experienced a few large-scale outages in recent months, but the Wednesday blackout is the first to affect all 1.4 million of Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority customers.

Officials from the Electric Power Authority said that it could take 24 to 36 hours to fully restore power. As of 7 a.m. AST/EDT Thursday, power had been restored to 1.1 million customers.

Before the blackout, about 40,000 customers still did not have normal electricity service as a result of the hurricane, the AP reported.

Hospitals, the Luis Muñoz Marín Airport, water systems and banking systems are being prioritized in the midst of the blackout, according to Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority.

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Maria made landfall as a devastating Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 155 mph.

"We warned the people in the area and around the world about the impending hurricanes and their expected impacts, which we know saved thousands of lives, and we are very proud of that," said Dr. Joel N. Myers, AccuWeather's Founder, President and Chairman.

AP PR Power Outage 4/18

Juan Castro fills a power plant with gasoline to energize the cabinet building workshop where he works, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, April 18, 2018. Officials say it will take 24 to 36 hours to restore power after a Island-wide blackout hit Puerto Rico nearly seven months after Hurricane Maria. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

Puerto Rico legislators are currently debating a bill that would privatize the island’s power company. The company, Puerto Rico Power’s Electric Power Authority, is $14 billion in debt and relies on infrastructure that is almost three times older than the industry average.

Concerns about the island's power grid mounts as June 1, the start of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, approaches.

The Major League Baseball game between the Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins scheduled for Wednesday night at Bithorn Stadium in San Juan was played despite the power outage. Tower lights were brought into the parking lots, according to San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz.

Puerto Rico gas line 1

Lines begin to form at gas stations across Puerto Rico after an island-wide blackout on Wednesday. (Photo/Kimberly Ríos)

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