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Thursday, June 20, 2024
HomeNewsLocal newsBlackout Has St. Thomas-St. John Seeing Red

Blackout Has St. Thomas-St. John Seeing Red

On-again off-again power interruptions Wednesday were not planned outages, WAPA officials said (Photo illustration by the Source)

Angry St. Thomas and St. John residents took to social media Wednesday as district-wide power outages were interspersed with easily misunderstood statements from the Water and Power Authority.

At around 7 a.m., the 20-year-old power-generating Unit 23 screeched to a halt when a gas turbine safety mechanism tripped, protecting the expensive machinery but shutting off power to both islands, said Shanell Petersen, WAPA’s director of communications.

Two hours later, Unit 15 and some of the new Wartsila generators were able to get current flowing to some areas. Fearing it may not be enough, WAPA warned customers at 11:40 to expect scheduled power rotation, with electricity turning on and off until 1:30.

Midday commenters online were bemused at best.

“Please be advised, your power will go out four hours ago,” one social media commenter wrote. Other responses were not fit to be printed here.

At about noon, Unit 23 was operating again and almost all feeders were restored, Petersen said. But two hours later Unit 23 went down again causing another island-wide outage.

The two-hour intervals, mirroring scheduled rotating outages, were coincidental, she said.

The ice cream parlor St. John Scoops announced it was closing late afternoon: “Caused because ice cream melts with no power.”

While WAPA officials said they were troubleshooting and repairing the old unit, online commenters fumed that the authority was only “shooting themselves in a foot.” Others mused extension cords connecting the islands had been unplugged or electrical tape keeping power lines together had lost its stick.

“Inclement weather is coming so we want to test our shut off process,” wrote one person. “We are testing your patience.”

Power outages have seemed like a near constant for months in the district, with major interruptions caused by equipment failurefuel shortages, and a lightning strike.

“It is an issue of the unit being a more aged unit,” Petersen said. “Right now they are conducting repairs.”

A more permanent fix is on the horizon, however, she said. Four more new Wartsila generators are tentatively scheduled to come online by the end of the year. The new generators are said to be dramatically more efficient and reliable.

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