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    Photo By Maj. Brett Walker | CULEBRA, Puerto Rico – Soldiers of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers meet with Mayor...... read more read more



    Story by Maj. Brett Walker 

    65th Press Camp Headquarters

    CULEBRA, Puerto Rico – Two large generators are scheduled to be delivered to Culebra by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers this weekend. Once installation, these generators will power the island’s hospital, municipal buildings, wastewater treatment plant and downtown street lights.

    Since Hurricane Irma in September, even before Hurricane Maria, Culebra lost its connection to the Puerto Rico power grid. Generators are the exclusive source of electricity in Culebra. The only generator powering the public facilities in Culebra is a single 1,800 kilowatt generator behind city hall.

    “We just have a small generator,” said Frank Garcia, City Administrator for Culebra. “We have electricity only from 6:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m.”

    Throughout the remaining 12 hours, there is no power available through the public electric lines. The lines coming to life at 6:30 each evening invites celebration on the streets of this small island town. Outside that 12-hour block of electricity, some critical infrastructure facilities rely on power devises donated by private entities.

    The island’s hospital is powered by two generators. The Foundation for a Better Puerto Rico and PACIV, Inc (Process Automation – Controls, Instruments, Validations) each donated one.

    “We were probably three to four weeks with no power,” said Theresa Bischoff, a board member of Salud Para Culebra and a health advisor to the town’s mayor. “Then we got power from 6:30 to 6:30, but the hospital did not get that power for another week because there was an electrical pole down.”

    The wastewater treatment facility draws its electricity from a Tesla generator, not the municipal power grid. The island’s Emergency Operations Center and sole public school are not powered by the municipal grid either. They are both operating on FEMA generators.

    “FEMA brought us a generator and that helped us to keep the people in the shelter with some lights and we could cook and everything,” said DiMare Ramos Curbelo, principal of the Escuela Ecologica de Culebra, which doubles as both a school and a temporary disaster shelter. “After that we closed the shelter and started offering our services as a school.”

    Reestablishing pre-storm electric power in Culebra will require repairs to underwater transmission lines connecting Puerto Rico’s two largest satellite islands to the main island power sources.

    “The electricity must come from Naguabo to Vieques then to Culebra,” said William Ivan Solis Bermudez, the mayor of Culebra, describing the route by which electricity travels to Culebra. Laughing, he adds, “Nobody knows when the electricity will return.”

    In Garcia’s opinion, Culebra cannot expect electricity from the main island until March 2018. “And even then we would be lucky,” he said.

    “We have to be careful with this generator because if this one messes up we will be in real trouble,” said Garcia.

    Absence of redundancy aside, there is also peril in the extensive expense of operating gas generators.

    “Business owners will find it is extraordinarily expensive to run gas generators,” said Bischoff. “We cannot do tourism with only twelve hours of power per day . . . Restaurants cannot open; the beaches need to be cleaned.”

    Last week a team of Army Corps of Engineers soldiers visited Culebra to examine the existing power grid. Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Grunwald, A Company, 249 Engineer Battalion, and his team met with Mayor Solis and the municipal supervisor of power utility, Carlos Torres Gonzalez. They also followed the various transmission lines around the island to identify points of failure.

    Grunwald, Solis and Torres Gonzalez proposed that FEMA install two 1,800 kilowatt generators to join the existing 1,800 kilowatt generator. Those two new generators will alternate running for twelve-hour periods, thus providing continuous power throughout the day. The original generator will serve as a back-up should either of the new ones require maintenance.

    According to Grunwald, the proposal for the new equipment was then presented to the office of the Governor of Puerto Rico through the Puerto Rico Electrical Management Agency. PREPA then needs to concur with the technical specifications and agree to furnish qualified technicians to maintain the generators.

    Until the new equipment is installed, the hospital will continue to depend on its donated generators and the water pump stations will remain silent for half the day. For the next few weeks, Culebra’s residents and tourists alike will continue to wait anxiously in the dark for 6:30 p.m. at which time the lights come on and life returns.

    For video of Culebra’s nightly ritual of awaiting electricity as well as the efforts of the people of Culebra to repair their island, visit

    Story by Maj. Brett Walker, Executive Officer, 65th Press Camp Headquarters



    Date Taken: 11.29.2017
    Date Posted: 11.29.2017 14:48
    Story ID: 256790
    Location: PR

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