ST. LOUIS - There was a message from St. Louis to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, Wednesday: help is coming!
Equipment from Ameren will start rolling as early as tomorrow. Manpower will follow.
More than three months after Hurricane Maria made landfall there September 20th, Puerto Rico is still in crisis mode.
The first wave of 75 Ameren repair workers will follow the equipment in the next few weeks, part of a new contingent of about 1,500 workers from the U.S., boosting the total number on the island to close to 5,500, Ameren officials said.
If it seems like the recovery is taking a long time, that's because of the amount of work. "Maria" knocked out just about everything: more than 50,000 power poles, 30,000 miles of line, all 3.4 million people were initially without power. Authorities say
there were no accurate estimates for how many have power currently but the total amount of power being generated is still at less than 70% of capacity according to Puerto Rican authorities.
There are still towns with just one central generator providing limited power for everyone living there.
“The first step will be to move our fleet and equipment to port in Norfolk, VA,” said Ray Wiesehan, VP of Crisis Management and Corporate Security. “From there it will be loaded onto a barge and then transported to the island of Puerto Rico. Our team will primarily be focused on rebuilding the overhead lines. There`s a significant amount of work that remains to be to done to basically rebuild the entire infrastructure down there.”
The initial plan is for least 3 waves of 75 workers from the St. Louis area for three weeks at a time. More may follow. Ameren is one of 18 U.S. companies joining the effort as part of the Edison Electric Institute’s response to a request from Puerto Rico's governor. It’s part of FEMA’s $1.8 billion response.