RICHMOND, Ind. — A Richmond Power & Light crew will leave town soon to join the effort to restore electricity on the hurricane-ravaged island of Puerto Rico.
RP&L General Manager Randy Baker said three linemen and a truck will be on the island to help with the recovery from Hurricane Maria, which made landfall there on Sept. 20 as a Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 155 mph.
"We knew the call was coming at some point. We're working very closely with APPA, the American Public Power Association, to do that," Baker recently told the RP&L board.
The local utility is just one of several that are sending crews in the latest wave to lend a hand.
"It's a string of utilities, probably in this group 15 or 20 different utilities across the country, some of them larger like Sacramento and some of them smaller like us," Baker said.
The RP&L truck left on New Year's Day to be driven to Lake Charles, La., where it was to be loaded on a barge to be taken to Puerto Rico. Once the truck makes it to the island, the linemen will fly there to begin their work.
"The situation on the ground as I know it right now, ... San Juan is in pretty good shape and I think Ponce is as well. The rest of the island is still just suffering from the devastation of the hurricane down there," Baker said.
"The crews — they tell me — have been basically working from dawn to dusk, so 12- to 14-hour days."
Some of those people have been on the island since September and are ready to come home, according to Baker. RP&L's employees won't be there nearly as long.
"I think our guys will be over there probably leaving somewhere around the middle of the month (and) probably be there until around the first part of March," he said.
Those chosen to go on the trip are excited for the opportunity, Baker said, but "we'll see how excited they are by the time they get back," he joked.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is covering all of RP&L's costs. Baker had to prepare a budget for the trip, which he put together using FEMA guidelines.
"It's quite the effort and quite a lot of work getting these things going, but we feel like it's the right thing to do," he said.
Source: Richmond Pal-Item, www.pal-item.com