PPL crews return from month rebuilding lines in Puerto Rico
PPL line workers returning to their Lehigh Valley homes in late February said it was tough being away from their families for a month after laboring to help rebuild electric infrastructure and restore power to areas in Puerto Rico ravaged by last year’s Hurricane Maria, but they said they would “do it again,” reflecting the positive experience they felt being able to help the people of the island 1,600 miles from home.
Four PPL workers residing in the East Penn School District were part of a larger contingent of nearly 40 workers which traveled from the Lehigh Valley to Puerto Rico to aid in rebuilding power lines and restoring power to neighborhoods still recovering from the devastation of last September’s Hurricane Maria.
Linemen Dustin Miller, of Emmaus, Ron R. Beitler, of East Texas, and Mark Binkley, of Wescosville, and support engineer Colin Cuffy, of Alburtis, all expressed positive feelings about their mission.
Miller noted the trip was a “once-in-a-lifetime” experience for him.
“I’ve never seen damage like we saw. You can’t grasp the devastation without seeing it firsthand,” he said. “The work was a test of our bodies and our minds.”
Beitler said he was impressed by the generosity and gratitude expressed by the people when the PPL crews were able to bring electric power back to a neighborhood. Beitler said crews worked from sunrise to sunset to restore more power each day and residents were supportive and grateful that crews with trucks with the PPL logo would be there until the work was done.
PPL trucks were shipped by barge from Norfolk, Va. and Lake Charles, La. in late January to be there when crews arrived.
Binkley recalled the day when crews restored power to a nursing home and an employee broke down crying with joy. “It was not even her home but she had that emotional reaction” at seeing the power going back on.
Cuffy said he was “choked up inside” being able to bring that kind of happiness to people.
Residents had been without power since the September 2017 hurricane spread destruction across Puerto Rico, overwhelming the island’s utility workers.
Most of the first contingent of nearly 40 PPL workers and support personnel arrived in Puerto Rico Jan. 25 and returned home in late February, replaced by a new group of PPL workers whose stay was expected to last through much of March.
PPL was one of 18 investor-owned utilities from the mainland United States who sent workers to aid in the restoration effort. The effort by the utilities was coordinated through the Edison Electric Institute, a utility trade group.
The mission was unlike mutual assistance situations in the continental U.S. where crews could drive their equipment to areas where outside help was needed to restore storm-damaged infrastructure. The coordination and planning which preceded the workers’ arrival to do their restoration work was “obvious and impressive,” one worker expressed.