We Energies sending crews to help restore power in Puerto Rico

About 25 employees from WPS also going

More than three months after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, about one-third of the island is still without power.

More help is on the way, including from here in Wisconsin. About 35 We Energies employees and another 25 from Wisconsin Public Service will travel to Puerto Rico in early January to help restore power.

Trucks and equipment are already on their way to Florida, where they will be loaded onto a barge and sent to Puerto Rico.

The island is still suffering after Hurricane Maria made landfall, knocking down tens of thousands of power poles and leaving about 3.5 million people in the dark. 

"That's a long time to be without power so anything we can do to help them out is what we'll do," said Peter Klafka, the operations supervisor for We Energies in the Milwaukee area.

He says he's never worked on a restoration assignment this large before and expects it to be a challenge.

"There's going to be a lot of hazardous conditions that we're going to encounter down there," he said. "The crew safety is the most important and obviously the biggest challenge that we're going to have to face down there."

The local employees will join about 1,500 utility workers from around the country in this next wave of relief efforts. 

Local authorities estimate that it might take until May for power to be restored to the entire island. 

"That's just something that we don't think about," Klafka said. "We take that for granted. Typically an outage around here might last a few hours. I can't imagine down there being without electricity for that amount of time."

The crews will work about 12 to 16 hour days, seven days a week. They expect to be in Puerto Rico for about six weeks to help.

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