Does everyone just love power outages? They occur at the most inconvenient times, when your cooking dinner, doing work on your home computer or watching the football game. But have you ever experienced a widespread power outage that affected thousands of customers? That’s exactly what happened in Puerto Rico late Wednesday night (21 September 2016) when a fire started near the Aguierre Power Plant located on the southern side of the island. The Power Plant was out of commission and over 1.5 million customers lost power for at least 12 hours. A great percentage of customers still do not have power as of right now (22 September 2016 @ 1750 EDT). The fire was caused by a power-switch that became overheated causing a large mineral oil tank to explode. More information on the incident can be seen via CNN and the Washington Post.
Interestingly enough, one can see the massive power outage over Puerto Rico via polar-orbiting satellite data. The Near-Constant Contrast (NCC), a derived product of the Day/Night Band (DNB) sensor on-board the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi-NPP) satellite can be utilized to see atmospheric features and emitted lights during the night-time. In this case from Figure 1 and 2 below, we can infer the areas in Puerto Rico that were affected by the power outage (i.e., the decrease in city lights seen from satellite from the 21 September to the 22 September 2016).
Figure 1: The NCC product highlighting the emitted lights from cities and towns on the island of Puerto Rico. The satellite image is taken on 21 September 2016 @ 0627Z before the power outage occurred. The Aguierre Power Plant where the fire first started and took out the power-grid in Puerto Rico is also seen. In the top-right corner of the figure one can see the approximate moon phase of the lunar cycle, where there is a correlation between the distinct satellite imagery and moon phase.
Figure 2: The NCC product shows the decrease an emitted lights from cities and towns on the island of Puerto Rico on 22 September 2016 @ 0608Z after the power outage occurred. In the top-right corner of the figure one can see the approximate moon phase of the lunar cycle.