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The island's fire department said it extinguished a blaze at the power plant in southern Puerto Rico that serves a majority of customers on the island. Heavy storms were affecting the area where the plant is.
Authorities said the outage caused 15 fires across Puerto Rico as a result of malfunctioning generators, including at the upscale Vanderbilt hotel in the popular tourist area of Condado and at the mayor's office in the northern coastal town of Catano. All those fires were put out and no one was injured, officials said.
The blackout snarled road traffic across the island and the government had to cancel train service in the capital of San Juan and close a busy traffic tunnel in the island's southern region. Businesses, universities and government offices shuttered early, creating even more chaos on roads.
"I call on people to cooperate and respect drivers and government officials ... to avoid any regrettable incidents," Transportation Secretary Miguel Torres said.
The outage angered many Puerto Ricans who are struggling with power bills that are on average twice that of the U.S. mainland. People took to social media to demand where exactly their money is going.
The power company has faced numerous allegations of corruption and is struggling with a $9 billion debt that it hopes to restructure. Company officials have said they are seeking more revenue to update what they say is outdated equipment.
It’s hard to overstate just how much this would uproot our lives. The lights would of course go out, as would the internet, and any device that draws current from the wall. In places with electronically-controlled municipal water supplies — like most modern cities — toilets and sewage treatment systems would stop working.
Heating and air conditioning would fail. Perishable food and medication would be lost. ATMs would be useless. Gas pumps would go offline. And so forth.
GPS technology would also be knocked out. Said Grunman, “The GPS system depends on the very precise timing of a course of signals between two points, like a spacecraft and your phone. If you dump a bunch of energetic particles into the atmosphere, that effects your GPS. Which is sobering when you consider the replacement of old aircraft landing technology with GPS.” Some of these effects could last years, and they’d be felt globally.
“It’s a huge EM pulse that roils up the ionosphere, causing it to expand out,” Berger said. “But the solar flare really doesn’t damage technology.”