It’s been over five months since Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico – five months and still over 300,000 electricity customers are without power. While it’s been slow going turning the lights back on, it’s also an improvement from where things were immediately after the storm.
The progress is thanks in part to volunteers, including Texans from Xcel Energy. The utility company sent over a dozen employees to Puerto Rico. The first group just returned after three weeks on the island. Brandon Carroll, a lineman from Littlefield, just outside of Lubbock, was one of those volunteers.
“I’ve been on a couple different hurricane-related storms,” Carroll says. “I thought I knew what I was going to run into, but it was a whole different experience than anything I’ve ever seen. The damage was just very severe.”
One challenge was adjusting to the terrain, he says. In Puerto Rico, the Texan volunteers worked on restoring service to communities throughout the rainforest.
“It had been five months, so it had taken back over everything that fell to the ground. That was a challenge, trying to figure out which way it was supposed to go or where it went and what fed what.”
The crew struggled to sort out the rainforest’s damaged infrastructure.
“The whole time I was there,” he says, “I was just wondering how did they build it the first time? And then we were putting it back – it was just something I’d never encountered anything like it.”
He says the community gave the volunteers a warm welcome and took turns feeding them.
“It was just heartbreaking talking to a lot of them,” he says. “They’re really good people and they were very appreciative of us being there.”
Now that he’s back home, Carroll says the work was difficult but rewarding.
“In our line of work, there’s always some dangers, some hidden dangers that you know are there,” he says. “But it just heightens that when everything’s down and you can’t see what you’re walking into.”
Written by Jen Rice.