Hurricane Irma certainly inflicted large amounts of damage to Osceola County when she moved across our community, but in comparison to other areas in Florida, Texas or most recently in Puerto Rico, we were very fortunate. Kissimmee Utility Authority worked around the clock to restore service to all its customers as quickly as possible… but they didn’t stop there.
KUA restored power to its customers within 75 hours of the storm, and then moved its crews north where they spent three days assisting Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC). From there, the crews traveled west to Polk County where they spent four days helping to restore power to customers of Lakeland Electric, and then headed to the Florida Keys to assist in their power restoration.
Now Kissimmee Utility Authority lineworkers are headed to Puerto Rico to assist with Hurricane Maria power restoration efforts.
Last week, the utility signed a work contract with Whitefish Energy Holdings, the contractor hired by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) to rebuild its infrastructure. On Wednesday, a small convoy of KUA service vehicles left Kissimmee for the Port of Jacksonville where overnight they were loaded onto a shipping barge which departs today for Puerto Rico. The journey by sea will take five days.
KUA linemen will fly from Orlando to San Juan on Tuesday where they will meet their trucks and begin restoration work. The crews will remain in Puerto Rico for 30 days.
The task before them is huge: 84 percent of the country is still without electricity. The most recent infrastructure report from the island shows that more than 50,000 utility poles need to be replaced and 6,500 miles of cable must be restrung – the distance from Kissimmee to Cairo, Egypt.
“As you can imagine, this mutual aid mission is unlike any we have participated in before,” said KUA president and general manager Jim Welsh. “After assisting in Orlando and Lakeland after Hurricane Irma, our community can take pride in knowing that our crews are on the move once again to help those in need.”
Puerto Rico holds a special place in the heart of many Kissimmee residents. The number of Hispanics of Puerto Rican origin living in Florida is more than one million, with the highest number (31 percent) living in the Orlando-Kissimmee metro region, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data.