Satellite Images Show the Extent of Puerto Rico's Huge Blackout

Satellite pics show Puerto Rico both before and after the black out.

Earlier this week, a fire at a power plant in Puerto Rico set off a series of failures across the island’s aging electrical grid. These before-and-after pics from space show what it looks like when 1.5 million customers suddenly lose power.

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These nighttime satellite images were captured by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite. The “before” pic was taken the day before the blackout, on September 21st at 2:50 am, and the “after” pic was taken on September 22nd at 2:31 am. The ocean surface looks brighter in the second image due to different angles of moonlight on the water.

The Puerto Rico night on September 21. (Credit: Jesse Allen, using VIIRS day-night band data from the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership provided by Miguel Roman (NASA/GSFC))
The Puerto Rico night on September 21. (Credit: Jesse Allen, using VIIRS day-night band data from the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership provided by Miguel Roman (NASA/GSFC))
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Puerto Rico during the first night of blackouts on September 22. (Credit: Jesse Allen, using VIIRS day-night band data from the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership provided by Miguel Roman (NASA/GSFC))
Puerto Rico during the first night of blackouts on September 22. (Credit: Jesse Allen, using VIIRS day-night band data from the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership provided by Miguel Roman (NASA/GSFC))

The fire at the Aguirre power plant occurred after a power switch overheated, causing a 2,000 gallon (8,000 liter) mineral oil tank to explode. This triggered a fire across a three-acre area. The resulting blackout caused widespread losses of water and air conditioning, as well as school closures.

A state of emergency has been declared in Puerto Rico, and the island’s 3.5 million inhabitants just faced their second night of darkness. As of yesterday, only about 20 percent of the 1.5 million homes and business had gotten power back. A pair of 230,000-volt transmission lines failed for reasons unknown, which further complicates the situation.

It’s not clear when full power will be restored, or how much damage the fire caused. It’s also unclear as to where the Electric Power Authority will acquire the funds needed to repair and buy new equipment. Puerto Rico is currently in the midst of a decade-long economic slump, and its power company is dealing with $9 billion worth of debt and an onslaught of corruption allegations.

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This is not a good situation.

[NASA Earth Observatory]

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George is a senior staff reporter at Gizmodo.

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DISCUSSION

awalawal5
Trumpmato Troll

It’s 2016. It’s time to make Puerto Rico a state already. They voted marginally in favor of it in 2012. I think it makes sense to have a binding vote (maybe 60% required to move toward statehood) and move the process forward. If they don’t want to become a state, then maybe it’s time to move towards other options, because I’m not sure that remaining a “territory” is going to do much for them in the coming century.

As an aside, I know that 51 states would destroy some beautiful, God-ordained symmetry on the flag, but we can probably overcome that.