- Susan Salisbury Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
More than 100 Florida Power & Light Co. bucket trucks bound for Puerto Rico were loaded onto three barges Thursday at the Port of Fort Pierce.
The shipment, including electrical equipment, is expected to leave the port by Saturday for the journey that will take five days, FPL spokesman Bill Orlove said Thursday.
In early January 140 FPL lineworkers and support staff will travel to the island to accelerate the power restoration in the commonwealth where hundreds of thousands of residents remain without power following Hurricane Maria.
Maria hit Puerto Rico on Sept. 20 as a Category 4 storm, knocking out power to nearly all of the island’s 3.5 million residents.
The FPL workers are part of a new wave of support that will include close to 1,500 additional restoration workers and support personnel expected to be in place in Puerto Rico by Jan. 12. That will bring the total number of power restoration workers to more than 5,500.
This includes those already working on the island from the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, crews from New York who are working as part of an intergovernmental agreement, and crews mobilized under U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contracts, officials with Edison Electric Institute said. EEI represents all investor-owned electric companies.
The FPL lineworkers will join a 10-person Incident Management Team already on the ground helping restore service to one of seven regions in the country.
“We remain committed to doing everything we can to help restore electric service to our fellow Americans citizens of Puerto Rico,” said Eric Silagy, Juno Beach-based FPL’s president and CEO.
“This is what we do in the electric utility industry. Our lineworkers are thoroughly trained, well-equipped and eager to get into the field to start making a difference in Puerto Rico where so many of our employees have strong ties. We recognize just how difficult it is to be without power after a major hurricane, which is why our leadership team remained on the island throughout the Christmas holiday,” Silagy said. “Now, we’re working to quickly assemble crews, trucks and electric equipment to join this next wave of support. We will remain on the island as long as we’re needed.”
FPL’s support of power restoration in Puerto Rico began after the company completed its own restoration in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. In the days immediately following Hurricane Maria, NextEra Energy, FPL’s parent company, donated $100,000 and matched the same amount from employee donations to help those affected by the storm. Many employees also held fundraisers and supply drives to assist those impacted across the island.
“With so many of our customers and employees having family and other connections to Puerto Rico, we feel a responsibility to help get the lights back on,” said Manny Miranda, senior vice president of power delivery for FPL.
“Our lineworkers and staff are battle-tested, having just completed the unprecedented restoration of more than 4.4 million FPL customers in the wake of Hurricane Irma,” Miranda said. “I have no doubt that our most-experienced lineworkers – working hand-in-hand with our leadership team – will hit the ground running to help restoring service safely and as quickly as possible.”
FPL coordinated the delivery of thousands of power line poles and other equipment to Puerto Rico and accompanied Florida Gov. Rick Scott to the island in November.