Update on Puerto Rico: Second Wave Checks In

By Kathy Hill

As the second wave of National Grid’s mutual assistance to Puerto Rico ends its four-week deployment – and a third wave takes its place – Incident Commander Tom Gozelski shares a few photos, and some feelings, about the experience.

What has been your biggest challenge in Puerto Rico?

I would say the total devastation, never having worked in an area that has been out of electric service for over four months, with this level of damage. Having the locals, the customers, be so excited to see us pull in – actually cheering our crews as we pull in and out of the job site every day. Usually when we come into a village or when we’re in certain areas, people will come out of their houses and say “please don’t leave.” The first thing we always have to do is reassure them that we are there until the work is done.

What surprised you most?

What surprised me most is the people, how humbling, how giving and supportive the communities have been toward us while we’re working out here in Puerto Rico.

What are you most proud of?

Working for National Grid. Being a part of this team down here right now. Not only the National Grid team but the entire utility organization that’s come down here, whether it’s the crew you’re on, the division you’re from, working with ConEd, being represented by NYPA— all the way up the chain of being a utility worker in this type of environment.

Is there anything you would like your coworkers back at National Grid to know about this experience?

Honestly, words cannot describe the experience down here. All of the lineworkers will say the same thing.  Everyone is relaying the information back home, but the words cannot honestly describe what’s going on down here. It’s amazing.

Do you think this experience will change you when you return – and if so, how?

It absolutely provides a whole new or different perspective on how important we are to the people that can’t do this work and who rely on this work to be done.

Was there anything you wish you had brought with you to Puerto Rico?

Honestly, no. I can’t think of anything that we didn’t already have. We brought the experience and we brought the talent, and that was really what was the most necessary down here.

Once their power is fully restored, what would you wish most for the people of Puerto Rico?

To somehow have the same level of service that we’re providing to them now.

What will you tell your kids about this experience?

Never take anything for granted. You never know when things you rely on most are going to be gone, and you need to be prepared for things like that.

 So you’d recommend a career in this industry to young people?

Absolutely.

 

Incident Commander Tom Gozelski describes these recent photos of National Grid’s second wave of mutual assistance in Puerto Rico.

 

This is a drone shot of the entire National Grid second-wave contingent with Ken Daly

 

There was a tight spot, the top of a small mountain, that we couldn’t get our equipment to. But Wisconsin Energies had small squirt buckets and we were able to work with them as a team. We had to run 300 feet of wire up the side of a pretty good hill in order to make that work. This picture shows a National Grid truck and Wisconsin Energies truck, with a National Grid employee and Wisconsin Energies employee. We talk about one of National Grid’s core values as ‘one team, one National Grid.’ Down here it’s ‘one team, all utilities working together as one’ – and that was a perfect example.

 

This photo shows the entire National Grid and Wisconsin Energies crew, right after the comprehensive job brief between both utilities and just before we went up and did the work. It was a pretty difficult and hazardous job that took about four hours to complete.”
Branch Director Corey Monk noted, “We, National Grid, are looked to as leaders among all of the utilities that are here. Everyone contributes to the safe, effective and efficient operation that has become our reputation. Safety is our priority as we cannot be successful without it.

 

Ken Daly joined us here in Puerto Rico, meeting with and having lunch with the crews at the job site. He shook hands and talked with everyone.

 

While Ken was here, we also had an opportunity to visit the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s Control Center, where we met the director of the Control Center, who was working the day the hurricane hit, watching the load drop from 2,700 mw to ZERO! It was amazing to listen to what they went through when the hurricane hit. Our final stop was at the Unified Command Center, where we were greeted by the region’s Incident Commander, Lance Becca from ConEd. Lance met with Ken – only for all of us to hear they played on the same high-school baseball team!

 

The people in this picture cooked lunch for all the Central Division employees – and they hadn’t even been energized yet. They were energized the following day, but they were so happy to see us they actually cooked us lunch before we finished energizing the circuit.

 

Grateful words from a customer in Puerto Rico

 

 

In this New York Power Authority video, National Grid Incident Commander Tom Gozelski shows how rapidly – and safely – crews are working to replace entire systems from the ground up.

 

Members of a newly re-energized San Jose church thank the crew with a feast.

 

See the first article on National Grid mutual assistance for Puerto Rico here.

3 Comments

Felix Nieves

Thank you National grid for do a great job in helping these people. My wife is Puerto Rican and the day of the storm she lost contact with her mom and 10 brothers and sisters. See her worry for a week with out news of her family made me sad for her. Finally little by little she hear news of them all, every one is safe, but some houses are completely gone and running water and power where still out. But thank you for what your doing.

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Lisa Willey

How very rewarding this experience must be! I would love to participate in the effort. I lived in Puerto Rico for a short time in my college years and I saw what devastation there still was 3 years after a smaller hurricane hit. I can not imagine what those people are going through with this much larger hurricane.
Way to go team for being such a good example of what “Here with you, Here for you” means in practice. I am very proud of this work!

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Alfredo Ferrer

Thanks for the great work you are doing for Puerto Rico. On 26 February you visited my house in barrio candelaria Vega Alta. Road 647 Km 5.3. You are working in that area. It difficult because poles must be place on top of mountain. Every body around is very thankful because you energized most of the area . God bless you all thanks.

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