|The ships in the harbor, and a few emergency lights, were all that was shining Saturday night. Photo from UPI, via here.|
It's been quite a year to be here in Chile. Violent protests, massive demonstrations, student strikes, a tsunami alert, a soccer game cut short by tear gas and riot police, and earthquakes strong enough to wake us from a deep sleep. What's next, you might ask? How about a massive, nearly nationwide electrical blackout affecting more than 10 million people?
It's kite-flying season here in Valparaíso, with 15-20 knot winds almost daily. But it was a beautiful calm evening on Saturday when the lights went out. As we looked out our window we saw only darkness in the city below, and as we watched the lights of Viña del Mar, the city up the coast, dimmed and flickered out as well. An ominous red glow flickered above the mountains to the north, over the oil refineries and power plants of Ventanas. Uh oh.
We filled up water containers, and dug out an FM radio, anticipating a long outage. The radio confirmed that the capital, Santiago, was also dark, as well as smaller cities up and down the country. There was no indication of what might have gone wrong. We sat around the candle and told stories from power outages and storms of the past.
But then, an hour or so later, the lights came back on. Two days later, the news is still reporting only 'instability in the power grid' as the cause, and small regions up and down the country continue to have brief unexplained blackouts. And we find ourselves wondering again, what's next?