Island-wide blackout forces businesses to get creative

All of Grand Cayman woke up Friday in the dark. It took 11 hours to get power back to all customers across the island.

Caribbean Utilities Company spokeswoman Pat Bynoe-Clarke said the electricity went out just after 4:30 a.m. Friday. She said there was an equipment failure between the power plant on North Sound Road and the South Sound substation in Fairbanks.

That initial failure, Ms. Bynoe-Clarke said, cut power from South Sound to the eastern districts. The transmission line then impacted the rest of the system and all of Grand Cayman lost power, she said.

With power down most of the morning, businesses without generators had to either adapt or close up shop and wait for the lights to come back on. Grocery stores, many gas stations and the big financial centers had generators to keep things moving, but many small businesses were left to sweat it out. Kitchens around central George Town propped open doors and cooks took turns going outside to cool off while they prepared for Friday’s lunch service.

At one salon, Sameena’s Beauty Center, Janet Campbell-Senior pulled chairs outside and did nails on the sidewalk. “Business has to go on, current or no current,” she said.

“You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to make a living,” Ms. Campbell-Senior added.

The CUC spokeswoman said power was back to almost all customers by 3:30 p.m. Friday. Crews brought the system back online in phases to make sure the power grid remained stable, she said.

The area between the Hyatt building and The Ritz-Carlton remained without power until almost 5 p.m. A power switch in that area had to be repaired.

Many of the big financial services firms were still operating as usual. Micho Schumann, who works at KPMG in Cricket Square, said companies in the area had generators to keep the daily operations going. “Business as usual I’d say for most of Elgin Avenue as far as I know,” he said.

Many took to social media and other websites to complain about CUC’s response to the major outage. Roger Davies, commenting on the Cayman Compass website Friday, writes, “As I could not get through on either the “outage” number or their regular phone number to find out what was happening, I went to the CUC headquarters and was advised the corporate office was also without power!”

There was a second, unrelated outage for several hours in West Bay Friday night. CUC’s Ms. Bynoe-Clarke said that outage was caused by a lightning strike.