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’Largest blackout in American history’ ensues in Maria’s aftermath as Puerto Rico struggles to restore power


Roughly 75 percent of U.S. territory Puerto Rico's 3.4 million residents still lack electricity, over a month has gone by since the island was devastated by Hurricane Maria.

A new study found that based on the available data, Hurricane Maria has caused the largest blackout in American history.

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló set a goal to restore power to half of all customers by Nov. 15 and 95 percent by Dec. 15.

If Puerto Rico can meet this aggressive timeline and a similar restoration pathway is achieved in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Maria will have resulted in more than 2 billion lost customer hours in total, according to the study.

That is three times the impact of Hurricane Sandy or the 2003 Northeast Blackout, the study reads.

Puerto Rico power

PREPA employee waits for Governor Ricardo Rossello and staff from the army engineers corps to take a tour thru the facilities of the Palo Seco Thermal Power Plant, which the Electric Power Authority plans to activate to energize different areas of the metropolitan area, 28 days after the passage of hurricane Maria, in Catano, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)


Prior to the storm, Puerto Rico's power system was unstable. The island's electric utility filed for bankruptcy in July, and officials had said the system was "vulnerable and fragile" and in urgent need of maintenance, sources told CNN.

Puerto Rico's utility quasi-public power utility, PREPA, signed a $300 million deal with a small Montana company, Whitefish Energy, to help repair the island's ravaged power grid.

Whitefish was awarded the deal without a competitive bidding process, drawing criticism from many U.S. lawmakers.

The company had just two full-time employees and was established only two years ago, which caused many lawmakers to suggest that cheaper and more established options might have been available.

In previous cases, such as recently in Texas and Florida, "mutual aid" agreements helped U.S. utilities to recover quickly from natural disasters. It is an unusual decision to hire a tiny-for-profit company, according to The Washington Post.

Despite the heavy scrutiny from Congress, Rosselló defended the island's decision in a statement on Tuesday.

“Of those (contractors) who met the requirements and aggressive schedules to bring brigades, one was asking for a substantial amount of money - which PREPA had no liquidity for - and another did not require it,” Rosselló said. “That other one is Whitefish.”

However, Rosselló said in a tweet on Wednesday that he asked the Office of the Inspector General to conduct a review of the contracting process of Whitefish Energy.

Meanwhile, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz voiced her own criticism of Whitefish, saying the contract should be "voided right away" and calling the deal "alarming" in an interview with Yahoo News on Wednesday.

The criticism fueled a twitter spat between Cruz and Whitefish.


Whitefish later apologized for their response to Cruz in a tweet on Wednesday night.