Dramatic images show how long Maria kept Puerto Rico in dark
Tuesday, December 11, 2018, 4:08 PM - Category 4 Hurricane Maria delivered a knock-out blow to Puerto Rico's power grid when it ripped through the island in September 2017. A newly-released series of before and after images shows the stark contrast between the nighttime glow of the pre- and post-storm island.
The images come from what NASA calls its 'black marble' view -- similar to the high resolution daytime images we see of Earth, but using nighttime imagery. With some processing to remove other sources of light, such as the reflection from lakes and glow from fires, the images shows us all the lights generated by human activity -- or in the case of the aftermath of the storm, the absence of that light.
Winds in excess of 175 km/h, nearly 1000 mm of rain, and storm surge of up to 4.6 metres slammed the island when the storm made landfall on September 20, leaving the formerly vibrant nighttime Puerto Rico a strip of darkness in across the Caribbean.
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Researchers at NASA developed neighbourhood-level maps for lighting in communities across Puerto Rico to analyze where and when electricity was restored, and the demographics of the regions that were left longest in the dark. Their findings show that rural communities were last to see power return, with some communities in the interior of the island sitting without power for more than 120 days.
"It’s not just the electricity being lost," said NASA research physical scientist Miguel Román, one of the investigators involved in the study. "Storm damage to roads, high-voltage power lines and bridges resulted in cascading failures across multiple sectors, making many areas inaccessible to recovery efforts. So people lost access to other basic services like running water, sanitation, and food for extended time periods."
The government of Puerto Rico released a study earlier this year blaming nearly 3000 deaths on the storm and its aftermath.