Last September, a Category 4 hurricane made a direct hit on the island of Puerto Rico. Devastating Hurricane Maria - later called the worst storm to hit Puerto Rico in 80 years - arrived only two weeks after Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm which left 1 million+ people without electricity. The combination of 150 mph winds, flood waters and buildings damaged by two severe hurricanes left 100% of the island in a complete power blackout. The small island of 3.4 million Americans quickly plummeted into a full-scale humanitarian crisis. Residents spent months living without electric pumps to bring running water into their homes, and without air conditioning to relieve the tropical Caribbean heat.
We Energies and Wisconsin Public Service (WPS), subsidiaries of WEC Energy Group serving more than 1.5 million electric customers throughout Wisconsin, answered the request for assistance. The energy companies dispatched staff from their homes to travel to Puerto Rico to help restore power. Initially, employees committed to a six-week assignment, but the majority of crews extended their stay and restored power on the island for a total of eight weeks.
The destructive hurricanes knocked out 80% of the island’s power transmission lines, according to Associated Press reports. Once they arrived, We Energies and WPS crews had to learn and adjust to a unique electrical system that featured transformers, utility poles and power lines snaking through coastal areas and across mountains. Crews faced incredibly challenging and complex restoration work because extensive portions of Puerto Rico’s power grid are in remote areas with little or no road access.
WEC Energy Group was honored by the prestigious Edison Electric Institute for its restoration efforts in Puerto Rico.
Travel Leaders Group played a role in helping to arrange housing and travel to the capital city of San Juan for the We Energies and WPS employees. “We’ve partnered with WEC Energy Group and its subsidiaries for over a decade, and we were glad to participate in their generous charitable effort,” said Gabe Rizzi, President of Travel Leaders Corporate.
The airline station manager in San Juan showed his company’s appreciation for the We Energies and WPS crews when they arrived with a hand-written thank you note from the local employees.
On June 5, 2018, WEC Energy Group was honored by the prestigious Edison Electric Institute for its employees’ work to assist with the restoration efforts in Puerto Rico. The company received the 2018 Emergency Assistance Award for Puerto Rico Power Restoration following Hurricane Maria. "We could not be more proud of our employees for dedicating two months of their lives to this humanitarian mission," said Gale Klappa, chairman and CEO of WEC Energy Group. "This was an unprecedented effort for us, sending crews and equipment outside the continental United States for the first time in our company's history."
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