PHILIPSBURG–Some eighty per cent of streetlights around the country were damaged during the passage of Hurricane Irma on September 6, 2017, resulting in many roadways around the country being in darkness at night.
There are about 3,500 LED streetlights countrywide and the number grows as requests for streetlights are made as the underground cabling project continues. Utilities company GEBE has been working diligently to remedy the situation and get the lights back up and running, but faces challenges along the process.
“What was done at first instance was to have an assessment done on the damage of the streetlights after the majority of electrical connections/restoration to the homes were completed, due to workload,” GEBE Chief Executive Officer Kenrick Chittick told The Daily Herald. “Approximately 80 per cent of lights were affected by Hurricane Irma. Many were broken, bent or turned and it damaged the underground cables.”
He said efforts were being made over the past year to replace streetlights with the more energy-efficient LED lights. More than 2,000 LED lights had been installed around the country before Irma struck.
Chittick said some lights that were intact after the hurricane were switched back on and others that had an electrical problem could not be lit due to damaged cables.
“Focus was placed on Phillipsburg to have the town lit along with the Boardwalk [Boardwalk Boulevard – Ed.] for as much as could be carried out. A great effort was placed on the Simpson Bay area, but due to damaged underground cable a number of lights may yet be out awaiting replacement. NV GEBE resorted to placing back some of the old light fixtures that were in our possession awaiting the new order.”
He said streetlights are not locally available and have to be ordered. “We placed an order for renewal already,” he said adding that 300 six-metre poles and 300 eight-metre poles have been ordered together with 1,000 LED light fixtures. Fixtures have been shipped and should arrive in the country within three weeks. Poles are also currently being manufactured and should be in the country by the end of February.
As for a timeline for repairs, Chittick said as soon as the fixtures have been received, the main roads around the country will be lit at first. “Currently we are repairing the poles that are leaning and checking the cables and fuse boxes in the poles for any damage. This way, when the fixtures arrive it is only to install them. You may have noticed that many of the concrete blocks on Back Street and Front Street were replaced with light pole and light fixtures.”
He said commercial areas will be tackled first. “Presently we had work done on the Juancho Yrausquin Boulevard and all main roads. We will restore all streetlights as outlined in the streetlight policy.”