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AEP Helps Provide New Prospects for Power in Puerto Rico

by on January 10, 2018

Some of the members of AEP’s Incident Management Team in Puerto Rico. From left to right: Todd Hopwood, April Bailey, Mike Free, Carl Sweigart, Tony Rash, Bubba Griffith and Bryan Blanton.

(Story by Bailey Cultice)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A second wave of AEP Incident Management Team (IMT) employees has landed in Puerto Rico. They arrived during the first week of January and will be joined by almost 70 frontline employees from all of the operating companies in the coming days. The AEP team includes line mechanics, fleet mechanics, safety and health professionals, engineers and dispatchers. In addition to personnel, almost 50 vehicles and other pieces of power restoration equipment are being shipped to the island.

The groups will spend the next 30 days working in the region surrounding the city of Caguas, a municipality about 20 miles south of San Juan. AEP’s territory is detailed on this map.

“Hurricane Maria left a path of devastation across Puerto Rico and nowhere is that more evident than the power system,” said Nick Akins, chairman, president and chief executive officer. “I’m very proud of our crews who are taking time away from their loved ones to help get the power back on. This is a humanitarian mission as much as it is a power restoration mission.”

According to the National Weather Service, Maria had maximum sustained winds of 155 miles per hour, making it a Category 4 hurricane. The storm knocked out power to the entire island, which has 3.4 million residents.

Power has been restored to about 59 percent of the customers in Puerto Rico, according to Tony Rash, safety manager, Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO). Rash was one of 10 employees who arrived in Puerto Rico December 10 as part of AEP’s IMT, and returned January 8.

“Even though more customers are back online, many residents are still without power,” said Rash. “The larger cities have a lot of power so stores like Walmart and Lowes are open. The situation changes when you leave the city center. There’s very little power in the rural areas where people live.”

The AEP IMT is leading efforts in the Caguas region, which includes the city of Caguas and three additional regions in the mountainous interior of the island. A major focus of the IMT’s efforts has been building relationships with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other utilities working in the Caguas region.

“I want to send a sincere appreciation to the first IMT that went to Puerto Rico,” said Phil Lewis, emergency restoration planning manager. “The IMT members have been vital in establishing relationships that will allow our crews to be successful.”

Lewis has been working with Tim Galecki, supply chain and fleet operations manager, to coordinate AEP’s response to Hurricane Maria and working through the logistics involved with getting personnel, equipment and supplies to Puerto Rico.

He notes that AEP’s employees are extremely well suited for the Caguas region because of their varied experience working in rugged terrain and severe storm restoration. While on the island, crews will focus on restoring commercial customers so people can get back to work.

From → AEP In The News

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