Barbados was thrown into the dark today by an island wide power outage which the Barbados Light & Power (BL&P) said was the result of the “storm conditions which the country was experiencing” with the passage of Hurricane Maria.
BL&P crews were forced into action in an effort to restore electricity as soon as possibly after the black out.
It was not immediately clear what went wrong. However, Communications Adviser Nicole Scantlebury told Barbados TODAY that by 5:45 p.m. electricity had systematically been restored to essential services like the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Grantley Adams International Airport.
Additionally, crews had successfully restored power to Bay Street, Spring Garden and its environs, Providence and St Martins and sections of St George.
By 8:40 p.m. power had been restored to about 75 per cent of the island, the BL&P spokesperson said.
It was an unusual start to the work week, as Barbados was affected by Hurricane Maria, which passed on the outskirts of the island.
Although the Department of Emergency Management (DEM) announced that it would be business as usual, the island’s capital Bridgetown was mostly quiet, with just a few shoppers, mostly visitors, making their way through Broad Street and Swan Street, where only a handful of businesses had opened their doors.
On Swan Street, one business owner who asked not to be identified said he opted to open his establishment “just in case there were people who needed to get some things for the storm and during the week”.
The roadside vendors, who usually add to the overall Swan Street experience, were noticeably absent.
On Broad Street, retail giant Cave Shepherd opened its doors to just a few customers who were perusing the store.
Communications Manager Mark Anthony said the decision was taken to open the store from 10 a.m. to give staff time to find their way to work.
“Today would have been a normal working day for all of Barbados except for schools. The staff compliment was favourable. We had a few who said they had challenges and were unable to make it, but the majority reported for work. Some team members actually came for an 8:30 start but we didn’t open until 10,” he explained.
“Sales were moderate. Both locals and visitors were in for the morning. We also want to market ourselves as an international organization so we have to do things in line with the type of market we are operating in.”
However, due to a power outage and an empty store later in the afternoon, the store subsequently closed at 3 p.m. to open on time tomorrow, weather permitting.
“Our management team will meet and make a decision if there is a change. But we will keep abreast of the situation. Our team’s safety is also paramount so we would not want to put them in a situation where they would be in danger or anything like that,” he added.
Hurricane Maria strengthened rapidly and had become a category five storm by this evening.
In a special update issued at 7:45 p.m. the National Hurricane Center in the United States said Maria “has intensified into an extremely dangerous Category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale with maximum winds of 160 mph (260 km/h) with higher gusts”.
At the time, the eye of the storm was 15 miles east south east of Dominica, or about 40 miles north of Martinique, moving west north west as nine miles per hour.