Thursday, February 1, 2018

Crews mark third week in Puerto Rico

Our crews are wrapping up their third week of power restoration in Puerto Rico and reporting good progress. They continue to work in the San Juan area, where they’ve been able to restore several neighborhoods that had been without electricity since September.

“The people of Puerto Rico are so appreciative,” said Bruce Sasman, who’s been leading crews from both We Energies and sister company Wisconsin Public Service. “Everywhere we go, people are waving to us and giving us a thumbs up. When we restore power, people are coming out of their homes, crying with joy and hugging our line mechanics.” 

Crews have been staying in a hotel that sustained hurricane damage and remains closed to the public. Their day starts with breakfast at 5 a.m. Crews are then bused to a staging area to get their trucks and equipment. They’re typically heading to their worksites by 6:45 a.m. and then spend about 12 hours working in the field. They debrief around 6:45 p.m., take the bus back to the hotel, eat dinner and go to bed ‒ for six weeks.

“It’s exhausting, but the crews are getting encouragement from the residents of Puerto Rico,” said Sasman. “That’s their motivation.” Listen to the cheers from school children after crews restored power at their school:

Aside from the overwhelming support from Puerto Ricans, our crews also have received compliments from line crews from Con Edison, an energy company based in New York City. On more than one occasion, Con Edison workers have told our employees how impressed they are by their determination to repair outages and restore customers in all circumstances.

“They actually said, ‘We’ve seen their abilities, and we want them to be working with us,’” Sasman said. “People think we really do a good job. People really want to work with us. They hold us in very high regard, and that’s really nice to see.”

Students pose with our crews after power is restored at their school.
Residents pose with our crews. Note photo bomber on roof.
The work conditions have been challenging and dangerous. Sasman relayed details of one job that took workers four days to complete. There was more than a mile of cable to restring on mountainous terrain. The crew worked along a narrow, one-lane road which had to be shut down to ensure workers’ safety. 

“While a language barrier exists, the compassion barrier does not,” said Sasman. “People are opening up schools and churches for us, feeding our crews. It’s emotional, and it’s very rewarding.”

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