A fallen tree in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaias. Photo: Donavan McIntosh
By TANYA SMITH-CARTWRIGHT
BAHAMAS Power and Light has left some locals in the dark about why their power was shut off for more than 30 hours in some cases despite winds from Hurricane Isaias barely at tropical storm levels as it churned over the country.
BPL said teams are on the ground working on restoration, however, regeneration was slow in coming in some areas.
Hurricane Isaias made landfall on New Providence late Friday as a Category 1 storm.
BPL announced it would begin a controlled shut down in certain areas beginning Friday night “of certain high-risk areas in the New Providence grid” only if Isaias maintains current conditions and New Providence sees sustained winds of 40 miles per hour.
“Should it prove necessary and storm conditions deteriorate, a second controlled shutdown will be executed, targeting flood-prone areas. Once power is cut, it will remain off until it is safe to reenergize,” BPL announced on Friday.
While some communities in New Providence reported never losing power during the storm, others had power restored between Saturday and Sunday. However, up to yesterday, pockets of New Providence still complained about a lack of electricity.
“My power has been off over 30 hours this is ridiculous what would be the case if we actually experienced a stronger hurricane. BPL you suck,” one person complained on BPL’s Facebook page.
Another person wrote: “. . .I haven’t seen any lines down (in my area). But three days later is unacceptable. BPL really need to do better and return the power. What if this storm was (worse)? BPL you are not prepared at all to handle it. Please restore our power!”
A resident of Stapledon Gardens said: “My power went off around 7pm on Friday. Absolutely no breeze was blowing at the time they shut us down. In fact this hurricane or tropical storm was in no way worthy of any utility shut down. We had to suffer in the heat for no reason for a whole 36 hours. My power was restored at 8.15am on Saturday. BPL has to do better.”
Minister of Works Desmond Bannister said while some in the public might think the hurricane’s winds were not strong enough to warrant power shut downs, the storm presented danger.
“You may not think that the winds were very high, but New Providence registered sustained winds of 37mph, with highest gusts at 56 (mph). As a result of those winds, flying debris, lightning, rainfall and fallen trees, BPL has had numerous breaches in its lines.
“Many of these fallen trees were permitted to grow into lines by homeowners who did not prune them. Whenever there has been a storm, BPL must follow all lines for their entire length before they reconnect power in any area. If they do not do so, they can endanger lives and lead to tragic outcomes. It is important for you to educate your readers on this issue, since so many people appear to believe that BPL has a duty to cut their overgrown trees.”
BPL customers are not the only ones who are up in arms about the power company. The Tribune spoke to an employee of BPL located in one of the Family Islands who said workers are disgruntled.
The BPL staffer, who asked not to be identified, said, “We are sick and tired of how management treats us at BPL. We, on the out islands, are usually given some supplies like food, etc, when there is a threat of storm traveling. This new general manager don’t know what he is doing. Nothing was sent to us; like we are dogs. No instructions and no supplies. They owe us thousands of dollars in overtime pay and want to talk about report to duty in a hurricane. That’s why half of us were not interested in working during no hurricane. If they still owe us overtime, what say they will pay us for the hurricane duty?
“We stop being stupid! We have really lost all confidence in BPL management. I think this general manager should step down. He doesn’t care about the staff and he does not know what he is doing. He doesn’t listen to anyone.”
Another BPL Family Island staffer, listening in on the conversation, said, “What she needs to ask is if BPL has a proper hurricane planning committee. We buy all this millions of dollars of equipment and brag to the Bahamian population that there will be no more outages and now look at us. Staff getting paid late. Staff owed overtime and the power off. We need a new manager. Well as for me, I ain’t checking. I only doing what I can do. Is BPL any better than it was 10 years ago? Lights out!”