Power outage continues to grip Grand Cayman

An hours-long power outage crippled commerce and much of routine daily life in Grand Cayman early on Wednesday, as thousands of residents awoke to find their homes and offices without electricity shortly before the busy midweek morning commute.

The outage struck about 6.30am and continued for several hours, knocking out electricity from East End to West Bay and everywhere in between on the largest of the three of the Cayman Islands. Police were called on to direct morning rush hour traffic by hand while many businesses were forced to operate on backup emergency generator power and others simply remained closed.

A representative for Caribbean Utilities Company, the lone electricity provider for more than 26,000 commercial and residential customers in Grand Cayman, said the cause of the outage was traced to a “fault at the West Bay substation which affected the entire system”.

Portions of the capital city of George Town and the more densely populated areas in the western part of the island had powered restored by late morning, as did sections of Bodden Town and North Side. However, other areas of downtown remained without electricity at midday, as did other customers in districts islandwide.

“Restoration of power has started in a part of the South Sound and George Town areas and power will be restored to additional customers in a phased manner in order to maintain system stability,” said Pat Bynoe-Clarke, spokeswoman for CUC. “We expect that all customers will have electricity by the end of today [Wednesday].”

Further information was not immediately available.

Vital services throughout Grand Cayman, including hospitals and air transportation, were said to be working relatively smoothly on backup generators throughout the ordeal. But for many businesses, including those without adequate alternative power sources, the morning was lost as they told employees to stay home and their doors remained closed.

Post offices throughout Grand Cayman remained closed at midday, while the Department of Immigration was open, but operating at limited capacity.
The backup generator at the Foster’s Food Fair IGA near the airport failed leaving customers and employees in the dark.

Woody Foster, managing director of Foster’s Food Fair, said staff locked the doors at the store to stop additional customers from entering. He said rumours of looting at the store were untrue. Staff inside the grocery store allowed customers to leave when they wanted and continued to serve who were shopping.
Planes were seen taking off and landing throughout the morning, but attempts to reach the Cayman Islands Airports Authority for comment on operations were unsuccessful. However, a customer service representative at Cayman Airways reached by telephone said the national flag carrier’s flight schedule for Wednesday had not been affected.

Meantime, attempts to reach the Health Services Authority, which operates the government-run Cayman Islands Hospital in George Town, were also unsuccessful. But Ansal Balbontin, an employee in the records department at privately-run Chrissie Tomlinson Memorial Hospital in George Town, said Wednesday morning that the facility had all departments operational.

Animal House Assistant Manager Patrick Boone said the North Sound Road location of the pet store had a backup generator and so was not affected by the blackout. However, Mr. Boone said the Countryside location of the store did not have a generator and so would not be able to open while power was off.

With no power at the court house, a sign on the front door directed people to the parking lot side, where court marshals advised them where to go. Magistrate Kirsty-Ann Gunn presided over her list in Court 5 on the second floor of Kirk House, where a bank of windows let in sufficient light for people to see. The magistrate had a battery-operated lamp on her desk.

Magistrate Valdis Foldats conducted Traffic Court and another criminal court in a room on the ground floor of the court house, where large windows gave sufficient light for him to adjourn cases and mark files accordingly.

No inmates were brought down from Northward Prison. At noon, court staff were still on standby for another Summary Court to open at 2pm. The Court of Appeal also was scheduled to sit in the afternoon if the building had power by that time.
 

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A CUC worker waits for word while an RCIPS officer directs traffic during Wednesday’s morning commute.
Carol Winker
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1 COMMENT

  1. From experience in other Caribbean islands over the past 40 years, I think we do pretty well in Cayman – albeit at a rather high price. However, I think questions need to be asked about the vulnerability of the distribution system if the failure of one sub-station in West Bay can bring the WHOLE island to a grinding halt. Between the financial and reputational damage to the cruise ship tourist industry, and sheer inconvenience to domestic consumers, this seems an issue that needs to be urgently addressed.

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