Ameren Corp. is sending nearly 75 employees to Puerto Rico next month to help with catastrophic power failures caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September.
That includes about 30 employees from the metro-east and other parts of Illinois, according to spokeswoman Kelly Hendrickson, based in Collinsville.
“They’re mainly lineman, so they’ll go down there and do pretty much what they would be doing here after a storm,” she said.
Officials estimate that half of Puerto Rico’s 3.3 million residents are still without electricity three months after hurricanes destroyed the island’s power grid.
Ameren announced its mobilization plans in a press release Wednesday.
The St. Louis company is joining other U.S. members of Edison Electric Institute to help the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, Federal Emergency Management Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
About 1,500 power-restoration workers are expected to travel from the United States to Puerto Rico in the coming weeks, adding to nearly 4,000 already on the ground.
In the release, Ameren chairman, president and CEO Warner Baxter called the challenges “unprecedented.”
“Our co-workers, who selflessly volunteered for this assignment, stand ready to safely tackle these challenges and accelerate the power-restoration and rebuilding efforts for the citizens of Puerto Rico,” he stated.
Ameren’s mobilization is starting this week. The company will send 19 trucks and other equipment to Norfolk, Virginia, where they will be loaded on a barge bound for Puerto Rico.
The barge is expected to complete its 2,000-mile journey by mid-January. That’s when employees will fly to the island.
“We’ll be sending them down for three weeks and then rotate as needed,” Hendrickson said. “It just depends on what they’re able to get done.”
Puerto Rico has been divided into seven regions for power-restoration efforts, according to Ray Wiesehan, vice president for corporate security and crisis management for Ameren.
Its employees will work in the Carolina Region, on the northeast coast, east of San Juan. They will stay in trailer camps or hotels that are back up and running, Hendrickson said.
To prepare for the trip, employees must get appropriate vaccinations and pack their fire-retardant clothing, hardhats, rubber sleeves and other gear.
“Our focus, as always, will be working safely so we can restore power as efficiently as possible for the people of Puerto Rico,” Wiesehan stated in the release.