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New York State utility companies sending more help to Puerto Rico

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo is announcing that more utility crews from New York State are packing up and heading to Puerto Rico, where the monumental task of restoring electrical service to the hurricane-ravaged island continues.

An estimated 160 personnel and more than 100 vehicles from New York State-based utility companies have already arrived. The governor says an estimated 220 additional people will soon join them.

"New York is stepping up our efforts to provide personnel and assistance throughout the extensive recovery process underway in Puerto Rico," said Governor Cuomo in a prepared statement. "I am proud of the hundreds of New York's utility workers and engineers who are taking a hands on role in helping repair the power grid and providing much-needed storm recovery expertise. We will continue to do all that we can to support our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico as they work to rebuild stronger and better than before."  


Contributing to the relief effort are National Grid, New York State Electric and Gas, Central Hudson Gas and Electric, Con Edison, PSEG, AVANGRID  and the New York Power Authority.


"It is critical that we provide technical support to Puerto Rico at this key time in the rebuilding process of its power grid," said NYPA President and CEO Gil Quiniones in a prepared statement. "Similar to the approach undertaken by Governor Cuomo in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy on Long Island in 2012, Puerto Rico's electric grid needs to be made more resilient as it is restored. New York's utilities have both this kind of storm recovery experience and a strong desire to provide this crucial assistance."

National Grid already has four managers on the ground and, according to spokesman Steve Brady, will have an estimated 60 people - including some crews from Western New York - in coming days. 

It will require many of their workers to stay on the island through the Holidays.

"The larger field force contingent going down will likely be there for both Thanksgiving and Christmas," Brady said. "That's quite a hardship for anybody to leave their families and leave their home. But clearly there's a sense of duty. When the formal request came in we were happy to take part and as you're seeing, utilities from all across New York are responding to this request."

It was suggested to Brady during his interview with WBFO that the sacrifice made by workers spending the holidays away from family is consistent with the spirit of the season, by assisting those in Puerto Rico who still remain without power. Brady says one of the hallmarks of their industry is to help other regions out when needed.

"We just had some crews come back from helping down in Florida and the Carolinas after they were hit," he said. "We worked for some of the same utilities that came north at different times to help us, most notably during the October surprise storm of 2006."

Sending people and equipment to Puerto Rico, though, poses a new challenge to National Grid. The vehicles, Brady said, will be shipped on a barge. There will also be extra precautions taken to protect the workers.

"There are health issues they might not face going to Pennsylvania or even Florida. We're making sure that the crews are going to be safe, getting all the shots they'll need, before going down."

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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