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"Still a lot of work to do": Delmarva Power mechanic reflects on restoration efforts in Puerto Rico

Delmarva Power and Pepco Holdings
Crew members from Delmarva Power help bring power back to Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico has been struggling to fully restore power since Hurricane Maria hit in September. It even suffered a major island-wide power outage this week.


Over the past two months, Pepco Holdings sent employees from its regional utility companies, including two crews of 25 from Delmarva Power, Atlantic City Electric and Pepco — to the island to assist with power restoration efforts.



The second crew returned from Puerto Rico earlier this month.


“Stay focused.”


“Be careful.”


“Be aware.”


Those reminders rang in Delmarva Power Journeyman Line Mechanic Chad Rodriguez’s ears every morning as Pepco Holdings crews drove two hours up a mountain in the remote Caguas region of Puerto Rico.


The goal: help restore as much power as they could to one of the most remote parts of the island. 


“Once we got to the areas we were going to be working with, we just saw debris everywhere. Wires, poles down. Houses with rooms ripped off,” Rodriguez said. “…The poles were old. They snapped off in the ground in the neighborhoods, behind the houses, down cliffs … just a mess.”


Crew members helped put neighborhood service wires up, clear out bad wire on the ground and set up new poles and new wires to restore power. Rodriguez and about 10 other crew members worked in the town of Aibonito and helped to restore power for close to 700 people.  



"I didn't want to leave."

Delmarva Power and its Exelon sister companies Atlantic City Electric and Pepco helped set up a total of 376 new poles and installed close to 110 feet of new wires. Combined, they helped restore service for more than 11,000 customers.


They pushed through along a specific path that Rodriguez said was “quickish” to get power back on. As they left, a Puerto Rico relief crew came to the area to restore power for customers Delmarva Power might have missed.



Before he left for Puerto Rico, Rodriguez said to Delaware Public Media, "Can you imagine being without power for this long? What would go through your mind?” Science reporter Katie Peikes asked him to reflect on that.

According to Pepco Holdings, by April 9, the lights were back on for at least 96 percent of the 1.5 million customers who lost power. Delmarva Power, Atlantic City Electric and Pepco worked alongside several Exelon sister companies — a 280 regional manpower effort that was part of a group of 1,500 personnel from Edison Electrical Institute companies.


Delmarva Power, Atlantic City Electric and Pepco had 77 trucks and a barge full of equipment. "A small army," as Rodriguez called it.


"I feel good of what we did as a whole," he said. "I’m not really satisfied but I’m saying what we did over there, we did well, each and every one of our guys down there. There’s still a lot of work to do but what we did, what we went to do, we did it, and I felt good about it.”

“I didn’t want to leave,” he added. 


Even after the efforts to restore power, Puerto Rico had an island-wide blackout Wednesday. Rodriguez said he doesn’t think it’s the worst the island will see even after all the work multiple crews have put in across the island.


“When the hurricane season comes, it’s going to be more,” he said. “You can’t solidify that island with just six months of work. They’re so outdated, they need investment down there that’s going to last through time.”

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