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Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority ‘devastated,' hopes to fully restore power in 3-4 months

  • The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority is out of service and isn't providing any power across Puerto Rico right now, its CEO told CNBC.
  • Power went down across the entire island after Hurricane Maria made landfall as a Category 4 storm early Wednesday. It was the most powerful storm to hit Puerto Rico in 90 years.
  • PREPA is hoping to have power fully restored in three to four months.

The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority is out of service and isn't providing any power across Puerto Rico right now, its CEO told CNBC on Friday.

The company, the U.S. territory's main electrical provider, has been "devastated by Hurricane Maria," Ricardo Ramos said in an interview with "Closing Bell."

Power went down across the entire island after Hurricane Maria made landfall as a Category 4 storm early Wednesday. It was the most powerful storm to hit Puerto Rico in 90 years.

Ramos is hoping to get power fully restored quicker than the six months it took after Hurricane Hugo hit in 1969.

"It's a step-by-step process," he said. "We hope ... three to four months at most."

Motorists evade a power line post after Hurricane Maria near Santa Elena in Bayamón, Puerto Rico on September 21, 2017.
Pablo Pantoja | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
Motorists evade a power line post after Hurricane Maria near Santa Elena in Bayamón, Puerto Rico on September 21, 2017.

So far, only about 35 percent of the infrastructure condition has been surveyed, and of that 35 percent, 80 percent of the transmission and distribution infrastructure has been lost, Ramos said.

Part of the issue is that most of Puerto Rico's power lines are aerial, Puerto Rico's secretary of state, Luis Rivera Marin, told CNBC on Friday.

"We need to get [the infrastructure] up and running. We established priorities whereby we have our hospitals first in line and certainly the hotels and going into communities," Marin said in an interview with "Power Lunch."

Recovery will take longer in the remote communities in the center of the island, he said. The area is the hardest hit because it is on higher ground and therefore was pummeled by winds.

Utility crews from the U.S. mainland headed to the island to help restore power, including utility companies from New York, Georgia and Florida. Crews are "working from early morning til night trying to get power back," Marin said.

Another issue is getting the materials they sorely need. The island had just committed resources to restoring power after Hurricane Irma. Marin said power was 96 percent back online when Maria hit.

"Many of the supplies and assets were committed to that recovery. FEMA is bringing in tons of supplies," said Marin.

Building a stronger Puerto Rico

President Donald Trump told reporters the island had been "totally obliterated."

Many of the homes on the island are made of wood with tin roofs because those are the means that most families on the island have, Marin noted.

"We're going to make sure that now we build a stronger Puerto Rico and those houses, even though they are built in wood, could sustain high winds," he said.

A website has been set up for those who would like to help the island rebuild: UnitedForPuertoRico.com.

Watch:  Puerto Rico Secretary of State on restoring power to the island