Nearly four months after Hurricane Maria brought devastation to Puerto Rico, the island is still recovering. Many key services are up and running relatively close to 100 percent – gas stations, cell towers, clean water.
But there is a ways to go.
Cleanup continues as well. Hazardous materials hit by the storm that could be a danger to human health need to be disposed of properly, including gasoline, pesticides and household cleaners, plus electronics such as TVs, stereos and phones.
As of Thursday morning, nearly 20 percent of the island is still without power (and for some that do have it, it's only a temporary, emergency set-up). FEMA says less than 60 percent of transmission lines are energized, with about 6 in 10 customer meters actually connected.
To aid in the recovery, Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy is sending dozens of workers, plus trucks and equipment, to a remote region of Puerto Rico, the company announced.
About 50 line workers from the Upper Midwest, Colorado, Texas and New Mexico, plus another 25 staff (management, support, safety and fleet workers) will head to the island at the end of January.
Trucks and other equipment are already on their way via barge.
They'll head to Caguas, a mountainous, rural area that in the east that was hit hard by the storm. Xcel said a lot of the country's transmission network is in rugged terrain like that, with little – or no – road access.
The work will last about six weeks total, with two sets of crews each working half of that.
“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, for Xcel. "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."