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Twin Ports power crews head to Puerto Rico

Minnesota Power trucks leave Duluth on Monday for the port of Chickasaw near Mobile, Ala., where they will be shipped to Puerto Rico. Crews from Minnesota Power and Superior Water, Light and Power will spend up to 30 days helping restore power to the island, beginning in early January. (Photo courtesy of Minnesota Power)

Crews from Minnesota Power and Superior Water, Light and Power will head to Puerto Rico in early January to help restore power to thousands of people on the island.

Nearly 20 Twin Ports lineworkers and support staff will be part of “the first major wave of mainland industry assistance” since Puerto Rico was hit by hurricanes Irma and Maria in September, according to Minnesota Power.

Nine Minnesota Power employees left Duluth and Little Falls on Monday to drive vehicles, tools and equipment to the port of Chickasaw near Mobile, Ala., where it will all be shipped to Puerto Rico.

Bill Peterson, line crew supervisor with Minnesota Power, said he volunteered to drive a vehicle to Alabama because he remembered how difficult it was for Duluth residents to go without power for several days following the wind storm in July 2016.

“They’ve been without power since September and, to me … trying to imagine being without power for that long has to be a great burden on the family. A little bit of sacrifice I can do to help restore their power, it goes a long way,” Peterson said in a Minnesota Power video.

Twelve Minnesota Power lineworkers, one Superior Water, Light and Power lineworker and one supervisor are expected to depart on Jan. 12 for the island, where they’ll meet the trucks and equipment. They’ll be accompanied by a mechanic, an engineer and a logistics expert. They expect to be in the field working by Jan. 15 and stay in Puerto Rico for at least 30 days, according to Minnesota Power.

“Asking for volunteers to leave families and homes for more than four weeks is never done lightly and is even harder to do around the holidays. It was heartwarming to see our employees step up as quickly as they did. We are committed to the delivery of safe and reliable power whether to our communities or to the people of Puerto Rico who have suffered so much,” said Brad Oachs, president of regulated operations at Minnesota Power.

Minnesota Power is among the electric companies in the Edison Electric Institute that are sending a total of 1,500 restoration and support personnel to Puerto Rico to accelerate the ongoing efforts to restore power.

“We’re proud to help our fellow U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico regain the comfort, security and quality of life ripped from them by these monstrous hurricanes. As we saw here in the Northland after the July 2016 wind storm, mutual assistance is integral to natural disaster recovery among mainland electric utilities. Extending this assistance to Puerto Rico will speed the island’s recovery as we share our people, expertise and equipment,” Allete CEO Al Hodnik said in a statement.