With about 1.2 million people on the island still without electricity after September storms, crews from PPL Electric Utilities of Allentown are on their way to Puerto Rico to help restore power.
Spokesman Paul Wirth said 37 line workers left for Puerto Rico this morning as part of a mutual aid agreement.
PPL is one of 18 electric utilities from around the nation sending crews in an effort being coordinated by the Edison Electric Institute, an industry trade group.
“This is a massive power restoration effort all converging on the island,” said field manager Chris Gonzalez, 42, of Stroudsburg, who will lead the PPL team. “We’re eager to do our part to help the people who have suffered for so long.”
The workers have all volunteered to work a 30-day rotation, and then other workers will be rotated in to replace them.
“It’s not clear how long of a project it is going to be, but with 18 crews working we expect that we will make a lot of progress once they get down there,” Wirth said.
PPL will pay its staff and it will be reimbursed, as is normal during a mutual aid agreement.
Sending repair crews to hard-hit areas in other parts of the country is a normal part of utility mutual aid, Wirth said.
He noted such agreements also benefit PPL customers after damaging storms here at home when crews from other regions arrive here to help.
He also noted there are plenty of line repair personnel staying behind to handle any outages in PPL’s territory.
“The credit really goes to this team of people who are willing to drop everything and be away from their families for a month straight,” said Gonzalez, who has family roots in Puerto Rico. “People in Puerto Rico need us, and we’re going to be there for them.”
In addition to the line crews, 25 PPL line trucks and other vehicles were shipped to Puerto Rico.
PPL planners and logistics specialists have worked for the past month to accomplish the move and arrange the details needed to transfer 37 people and tons of equipment to a place not accessible by land.