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Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, April 24, 2024
HomeNewsLocal newsLengthy Blackout Vexes STT-STJ

Lengthy Blackout Vexes STT-STJ

Power returned to much of St. Thomas and St. John on Thursday but don’t ask WAPA customers to see the bright side. (Photo illustration by the Source)

Squeezing the last drops of battery life from their devices, Virgin Islanders took to social media Thursday to rail against widespread power outages that plunged large swaths of St. Thomas and St. John into voltage-free vexation.

A more-than 12-hour failure at the Water and Power Authority’s Randolph Harley Power Plant in Krum Bay knocked out electrical supply for much of the islands, eventually closing schools, hindering businesses, and causing figurative steam to shoot from the ears of Virgin Islanders already reeling from planned rolling outages and the unexpected current disruptions of Tropical Storm Philippe.

The islands dried out from the storm at a steamy 86 degrees, which may as well have been a boiling point.

A component assembly in WAPA’s Unit 15 malfunctioned at around 1:20 a.m., causing the 43-year-old piece of machinery to speed up and out of synch with normal generation. This isn’t supposed to cause a chain effect but for some reason, it did early Thursday, said Shanell Petersen, WAPA’s director of communications.

“The loss of generation was caused by an excitation issue on Unit 15 which cascaded to the other generating units,” Petersen said. “It is a mechanical/electric error. Inherently, if one fails it does not cause the others to fail. However, in this particular case, when Unit 15 failed, the other units picked up speed. The protective feature caused the other units to shut down to prevent damage.”

The new Phase 1 and Phase 2 Wartsila generators helped get the plant back online, she said. Power was eventually restored district-wide at 2 p.m. but isolated outages continued due to storm conditions.

“The first feeders were back online from 9:30 a.m,” Petersen said. “There are a few localized/isolated outages across the territory due to the impact of Tropical Storm Philippe with down power lines and debris. It’s important to note that the crew cannot work in heavy rain, lightning, and/or high winds when operating the bucket truck.”

It was too late for schools.

In the St. Thomas-St. John district, public schools without access to electricity and potable water closed for all of Thursday, even after power was restored.

While WAPA crews worked to get downed power lines back up across the territory, they also completed repairs to a damaged waterline along St. Croix’s Queen Mary Highway.

While WAPA customers groaned over the power outages, restaurants with generators promoted food and drink specials to attract frustrated folks looking to eat and drink away their fury.

In a perhaps ill-timed announcement, WAPA alerted customers Thursday their offices would be closed after 11 a.m. Friday for a staff meeting and Monday for Puerto Rico-Virgin Islands Friendship Day. Bills could still be paid, however, by calling 340-774-3552 or 340-773-2250 or online at https://buff.ly/3YUAnTS.

Curious WAPA customers with questions can catch the authority’s CEO and Executive Director Andy Smith and Petersen at 8:40 a.m. Friday on WTJX FM 93.1’s “Analyze This” show with former Sen. Neville James.

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