What would happen if the government was so broke that it couldn’t even afford to maintain the basics – including keeping the electricity on?
That’s essentially what’s happened in debt-ridden and poorly-managed Puerto Rico, where a fire took hold at a power plant, and left more than 3 million people without power.
There are many SHTF situations, and many of them center around societal or governmental collapse, but few people in the United States know what that looks like.
But it happens regularly enough that there are examples in the Commonwealth protectorate of Puerto Rico, and in Venezuela, just to name a couple of examples.
When conditions are dim, there is no money to maintain the infrastructure, and it opens the system up to the inevitable – problems are going to crop up, and without a good system in place, are likely to cause major problems.
In fact, Puerto Rico’s problems have been decades in the making.
via USA Today:
The vast majority of Puerto Ricans were without power Thursday after an enormous fire at an electrical plant left most of the island’s 3.5 million people without electricity.
Power is slowing being restored across the island, and the entire system should be back to normal on Friday.[…]
“This is a very serious event,” Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla said of the outage. “The system is not designed to withstand a failure of this magnitude. I assume complete responsibility. Everyone knows that the company’s maintenance problems began decades ago.”
The power company in Puerto Rico is in some serious debt – totaling over $9 billion. The only realistic solution to the island-protectorate’s money problems has come in the form of another U.S. taxpayer bailout… which would surely prove unpopular, but nonetheless, hasn’t happened yet.
Puerto Rico’s leaders have tried in vain to hold together the pieces, despite crumbling infrastructure and immense debt that they have no reasonable way of repaying. via ABC News:
He said he understood people’s frustrations and the need to blame someone for the blackout, which plunged the U.S. territory’s 3.5 million inhabitants into darkness amid a decade-long economic crisis that has worn Puerto Ricans down.
“We all want the system to be back online,” Garcia said. “Let’s hold someone responsible for this. Blame me. I’ll take the blame. What’s another stripe on the tiger?”
Until then, Puerto Rico will continue to struggle, and the living conditions of the people will continue to deteriorate, while service and utilities are becoming more and more unreliable.
What will people do? They will do without; they will wait in lines; they will stay home from school, work and business. An already bad economy is getting shut down – for now, only temporarily – and everything gets worse before it gets better.
via ABC News:
“Puerto Rico is not prepared for something like this,” said Celestino Ayala Santiago, who slept in his car so he could have some air conditioning to escape the heat.[…]
The fire apparently knocked out two transmission lines that serve the broader grid… “Given that the system is so old, numerous setbacks could occur,” he said. “The system is not designed to withstand a failure of this magnitude.”
As soon as the power failed, roads that are clogged with traffic on a normal day were plunged into chaos as streetlights went out. Businesses closed, long lines formed at gas stations and rooms quickly filled at hotels with generators. Many Puerto Ricans dragged mattresses out to balconies and porches to spend the night outside, doing what they could to ward off mosquitoes in the still air.[…]
Many Puerto Ricans expressed doubts that power would be restored quickly, saying the economic slump has affected basic government services.
While this unfortunate event is expected in struggling places like this one, the truth is that the potential for this to happen in America – potentially prompting long-term periods without power or government services – is entirely possible and perhaps inevitable.
If and when the system gives way – economically or otherwise – there will be no way of stopping the decline that could bring with it life-threatening conditions to everyone who is dependent upon it.
That is way is is essential to be prepared, and keep supplies on hand to a) weather the storm of temporary disruptions and events and b) live securely without needing to rely upon services and necessities that may not be there someday.
Unfortunately, the problems are all-too-real and it could even happen here.
Puerto Rico is under a debt bomb, and these problems were foreseeable and inevitable. Unfortunately, they will only get worse.