The months-long ordeal of being without electrical service came closer to an end when Oklahoma sent a dozen PSO workers to Puerto Rico last month.
Residents of that island have been putting their lives back together since Sept. 20, 2017 when Hurricane Maria battered the land with 150 mph winds.
ryanHenryettan Ryan Day was one of the 12 power company workers going non-stop with 16-hour days rebuilding the electrical system.
“It is a pretty country,” he said. “There was lots of storm damage.”
Day said he and the rest of the PSO workers spent the month in the Cawas and LaMesa areas in the southeast corner of the Caribbean island. “We had seven operating companies that were responsible for rebuilding the circuit there.” The southeast part of the island was said to have been the hardest hit by Hurricane Maria.
Besides being in an unfamiliar country, the work was complicated by a lack of ready replacement supplies. AEP/PSO sent trucks and equipment by barge but Day and the rest often found a need for wiring and poles. “There was a lot of existing material damaged on the ground and we had to reuse a lot of it.” That meant digging through some of the debris piles lining the roads and in vacant areas.
As the PSO crews completed one section, they would jump ahead and start working on another. That work saw them finish up in a valley then start heading up one of the mountains. Day said that was difficult driving due to the small, winding roads, often lined with homes. “There were houses only a couple of feet off the side of the road. They would be perched on the side of the mountain with a straight drop off behind them.”
Getting off the roadway was another issue for the line crews. Because of the year-round growing season, vegetation was already returning to its lush stand hiding the ground below. “You would go off into the jungle and take a stick with you to poke ahead to make sure you didn’t drop into a ravine.” He said one of the men fell into a hole and, when he hit bottom, only the top of his hard hat was showing.
The language barrier was a problem but, “we always found someone who spoke English and used them to translate to their neighbors. The people were very helpful and appreciative. Most brought us drinks and food from their house to show their appreciation for our help.”
That thanks was best shown during the last days of their stay when the workers were invited to a community festival on the top of a mountain. “They cooked dinner for us and roasted a whole pig. It was neat to get to interact with the people and experience their culture.”pso tn
While Day and the PSO crews were restoring electrical service, they were never far from some home with cellphone service about as prevalent as in Henryetta. That was through Project Loon that sent up a number of helium-filled balloons across the island. Each balloon carried the cellphone relays giving coverage to most of the island.
After working non-stop for the first two weeks, Day and the others were given a half a day to relax. “We got to see the ocean and put our feet in the water.”
“It was a grind but the people’s appreciation made it worth it.”
He and the others returned to Oklahoma the first of March knowing they played a part in restoring a normal life to many people.