Monday, March 15, 2010

Nationwide Blackout

Don't forget to buy one (or more) of Christian's pictures and donate to Chile through that purchase!!! See this post for more information!!! All funds raised through March 17th will be donated to Red Cross Chile and Un Techo Para Chile!!!

Last night, at 8:43pm in Chile, while we were skyping with my parents, the electricity went out. At first, I thought it was just parts of Santiago, but we soon realized that it was a nationwide blackout where 90% of the population in Chile lost power (thanks to the radio I listened to on Christian's mp4 player). Luckily we bought a flashlight after the earthquake and had that to find out way around the apartment. Our building has an emergency generator so the light in the hallway was on. We opened up the door and hung out close to it as to not waste the batteries in the flashlight. Turns out the whole Central Interconnected System (Sistema Interconectado Central, or SIC, as we know it in Chile) was down. This is the principal transmission system in Chile and the outage reached from the 2nd region in the north all the way to Chiloe island. All I can say is thank goodness I work at an energy generation company (we do not have distribution services) because I understood all the technical jargon being said over the radio by the head of the ONEMI, CEO of Chilectra and other high-up energy executives.

At first, I--plus probably a large majority of the population--though the outage was product of another aftershock. It wasn't thankfully. Although I was worried we would have one during the time the power was out. The outage was due to a 500 kV transformer in the Charrua Substation in the 8th region overheating. Although the authorities have not confirmed this, it was most likely a result of damage produced by the earthquake. The transmission system in Chile was damaged during the earthquake, and although there are high security standards to be maintained on the system, getting energy to the most affected zones in the South has been the priority over fixing the t-systems which are working, even though not up to standards. I agree with that decision. It was absolutely necessary to get energy back to Concepción and the Maule Region before trying to fix the transmission system so that it meets the high standards. The repairs could take months and obviously these areas needed energy ASAP.

We unplugged everything, as per typical procedure. This must be done with blackouts because when the energy turns back on, it could have a higher voltage which could fry your electronic devices. The cell phones had died as well--typically in any crisis situation in Chile (cell phone service sucks). But the house phones, or líneas fijas, were working. I called my parents with a phone card to let them know we were ok and the power was out. Didn't want them thinking there was another earthquake or something. Christian then decided it was time to be a photographer and took this awesome picture (inserted below). I stayed with Dulcinea, listening to the radio by the door. Luckily, power came back to Providencia around 10pm so it wasn't terribly long for us. But others in Chile had to wait until past midnight or later for the power to return. Article in Spanish can be found here.


Lou said...

Oh wow...the things you guys have been through in Chile lately...hopefully the outage didn't last too long!

Anonymous said...

Good post! And a gorgeous photo. Thanks for explaining all the technical stuff. We weren't off for too long here in Vina, I was thankful for having gas so I could finish cooking dinner. I linked to you, hope that's OK!

Disclaimer—La Chilengüita is a blog created upon my personal experiences and which expresses my personal opinion that in no way represents the views my employer, family or friends.