UPDATE: February 20, 2018
Today 72 Xcel Energy employees helping restore power in Puerto Rico returned home to their families. They’ve faced challenging conditions and remote locales over the past three weeks, and we thank them for their hard work done with pride. Safe travels to our second crew, departing for the island today!
UPDATE: February 13, 2018
Nearly 2,000 Puerto Rican customers have had their electricity turned back on thanks to Xcel Energy crews.
Workers from the Upper Midwest, Colorado, Texas and New Mexico have been on the island since Jan. 29 and are continuing their efforts to restore power to the island. These crews have one more week of work before the second wave replaces them on February 19. Crews are working hard and have no injuries or equipment issues reported.
Last week, Xcel Energy linemen from Colorado spent a few days working to restore power to Escuela Rexford Guy Tugwell, a Montessori school located in Cayey. Crews, students, and teachers celebrated power restoration Thursday, Feb. 8, and students are now able to have full school days for the first time since Hurricane Maria hit the island.
Company leaders Bob Frenzel, chief financial officer, and Kent Larson, executive vice president and group president, operations, are also in Puerto Rico this week thanking workers for all they’ve done and to see the progress first hand. More will be shared about their visit in an XpressNet story later this week.
Spirits are still high among the crews as they are continuously receiving gratitude from the people of Puerto Rico.
More than 1 million Puerto Rican customers, 75 percent of the island, have had their power restored. Hundreds of thousands still remain without power more than four months after Hurricane Maria caused tremendous damage to the island’s homes, businesses, infrastructure and electrical grid.
UPDATE: February 6, 2018
Xcel Energy’s crews are on the ground in working in the Cayey and Cidra regions in the southeast part of Puerto Rico and have been restoring power to the island’s grateful residents.
They spent the first day going through extensive safety training to be prepared to travel on the narrow roads and deal with the abundant vegetation. They also stocked their trucks in preparation for the humid, 80-degree days.
The upper Midwest crews have been working along a very narrow road. They have collaborated with local police to reduce roads to one lane of traffic to safely do their work, and have enjoyed a warm welcome by the local residents. They have encountered steep ravines and one new pole location had to be hand dug. They have spent many days on one line, restoring power to more than 45 customers.
Our Texas and New Mexico crews have been able to restore power to more than 300 customers in the mountain community of Cidra. They have worked on setting and straightening the feeder as well as taps and services. Their biggest challenges have been the terrain and lack of access.
Our Colorado crews are working in Cayey, which was hit by the eye of Hurricane Maria. They have been working on narrow roads at grade and are getting ready to energize sections of the line they have been working on for several days.
Local residents have been happy to see crews in the area and have expressed their gratitude as power has been restored.
Xcel sending crews to Puerto Rico to help with ongoing power restoration efforts Chippewa Herald – 2/4/2018
Xcel Energy, which serves part of the Vail Valley, sending crews to Puerto Rico Vail Daily – 2/3/2018
Xcel Energy crews depart for Puerto Rico to help with ongoing power restoration efforts Red Wing Republican Eagle – 2/2/2018
Xcel Energy workers restore power to over 70 Puerto Ricans NewsChannel 10 – 2/2/2018
Xcel Energy crews make progress in first week of Puerto Rico restoration effort Myhighplains.com – 2/2/2018
UPDATE: January 29, 2018
After weeks of preparation, approximately 70 Xcel Energy employees are calling Caguas – a mountainous and remote region in the southeast part of Puerto Rico – home for the next three weeks. Their mission: restoring power to some of the island’s 3.4 million residents.
“The crews’ spirits are high,” said Luke Oberle, director, Southeast Minnesota and South Dakota, Design and Construction, prior to the employees’Jan. 29 deployment. “They are excited to get down to Puerto Rico and begin restoring power for people who have not had power for four months.
“In total, we’ll have crews there for six weeks. All employees will work 16 hours a day for three weeks and then be switched out with fresh employees. We’ll be providing mutual aid for a total of six weeks.”
While the weather may be nicer there than Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota’s current weather – where 25 of the employees are coming from – Xcel Energy’s employees are in store for many challenges.
“The roadways are very narrow, and it is going to be very difficult for our line trucks to navigate them,” Oberle said. “We’ll pair up multiple crews if needed. Also, security teams are in place from Puerto Rico who will provide assistance including traffic control if needed.”
“We also have an employee – Carlos Figueroa, from our Minnesota Metro West division – who is a nativefrom that region of Puerto Rico – he will be able to act as a translator and navigator for us.”
Additionally, the soil is mainly going to have a gravelconsistency but will vary from sand to rock – somewhat different from what is here on the mainland. But Oberle says the equipment that was sent by barge will be able to handle it.
“We will have two safety consultants throughout our deployment with us who will perform crew observations and assist with safety concerns. We expect all employees to follow all company safety rules, policies and procedures to keep everyone safe.”
In addition to those 25 upper Midwest employees, 30 employees from Colorado, 13 employees from Texas, and three employees from New Mexico also made up the first round of deployees.
All employees received recommended immunizations from the company’s chief medical officer which is consistent with the Centers for Disease Control at least two weeks before deploying. Xcel Energy has confirmed there will be functioning and staffed medical facilities in the area where the crews will be working.
Despite the devastation to the island, Xcel Energy was able to secure safe accommodations on the island for employees to be housed during their deployment along with food, laundry, water, fuel and ice.
In preparation to provide aid, Xcel Energy sent 65 pieces of equipment from Minnesota, Colorado and Texas – which included line trucks, pickups, diggers and trailers – at the beginning of January to Lake Charles, LA. They were loaded on the Ulysses – a barge that transported it to Puerto Rico.
UPDATE: January 23, 2018
Xcel Energy trucks made landfall and crews are soon to follow! We’ve joined the Puerto Rico power restoration effort, and our thoughts for safe work and fair weather are with you all.
January 10, 2018
Xcel Energy is answering the call for mutual aid from Puerto Rico by sending 65 workers to the island at the end of January.
“We’re proud to be part of more than 5,500 workers nation-wide focused on restoring power to Puerto Rico,” said Kent Larson, executive vice president and group president, Operations. “We have some of the best line workers in the nation, and we’re honored to play a role in helping our neighbors – and fellow citizens – even if they live more than 2,400 miles away and across a body of water.
Xcel Energy is expected to be working in Caguas, a mountainous and remote region in the southeast region of the island where the storm came ashore and the damage is significant. Company safety personnel will be traveling with the crews and providing daily safety training and updates to deal with the unfamiliar terrain and conditions.
The company is sending about 50 line workers – from the Upper Midwest, Colorado, Texas and New Mexico – along with management, support, safety and fleet staff. They will be flying to the island after company trucks and equipment were sent by barge at the beginning of the month. Xcel Energy’s support is expected to last six weeks with the first wave of workers working three weeks and a second wave relieving them for the last three weeks of the mission.
“Our crews want to do this – they’re passionate about their work and eager to do the job,” Larson said.
Xcel Energy received a request for assistance on Dec. 16, 2017, and is one of more than 20 electric companies committed to accelerating ongoing power restoration efforts after Hurricane Maria hit the island in September 2017. The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) is working with member of the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on damage assessment and a coordinated restoration plan.
“We know if we were affected by a natural disaster, other energy companies would help us.”
In preparation to provide aid, Xcel Energy sent 65 pieces of equipment from Minnesota, Colorado and Texas – which included line trucks, pickups, diggers and trailers – at the beginning of January to Lake Charles, Louisiana. They were loaded on the Ulysses – a barge that is transporting them to Puerto Rico – on January 7, and left port on its way to the island on January 9.
So far, PREPA says it has restored power to 55 percent of customers on the island. The hurricane caused significant damage to Puerto Rico’s infrastructure, and the damage is coupled with geographic challenges. Much of the country’s transmission network is in rugged, mountainous terrain with little or no road access.