Two months ago, DTE crews returned home from Puerto Rico, where they assisted in a restoration mission unlike anything the company has done before. This week, several employees took the field once more on a mission thousands of miles away from home.
Crew members from DTE and energy companies across the country, walked onto Petco Park’s baseball field ahead of Monday night’s game, where the Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres Major League Baseball teams honored them for their service in Puerto Rico.
The accolades continued Tuesday, when Edison Electric Institute (EEI), an association that represents all U.S. investor-owned electric companies, presented DTE with the association’s 2018 Emergency Assistance Award for Puerto Rico Power Restoration.
“We are humbled and proud to receive this recognition, but the real honor was being able to serve the people of Puerto Rico,” said Ryan Stowe, executive director of Distribution Operations, DTE Electric. “When DTE announced we were making the 2,000 mile trek to the island, hands rose across the company. The response was almost overwhelming. Everyone wanted to take part in this mission, not for the recognition, but because they knew it was the right thing to do.”
DTE had sent more than 160 skilled workers, 40 service vehicles and hundreds of pounds of materials to the Puerto Rico, as part of an historical mission to restore power to the island after Hurricane Maria made landfall September 20. The storm damaged more than 80 percent of the island’s energy grid and left all of its residents in the dark, some for months. Energizing the island required the skills, expertise and manpower of energy companies from every corner of the United States.
In roughly two months, DTE crews restored power to more than 20,000 customers in the eastern region of the island. In return, the people of Puerto Rico welcomed crew members with hugs, smiles and home-cooked meals.
“We traveled to Puerto Rico to make an impact on the island’s electrical infrastructure. What we didn’t expect was the impact its people would have on us,” said Russ Pogats, who helped coordinate the work and logistics throughout the mission. “I know I can speak for each of our crew members when I say that our experience in Puerto Rico is one that we will never forget.”
Pogats was among those represented on the field along with Syl Castonguay, incident commander for the first wave of DTE crews; Jamie Shaw and Ryan Olechnowicz, assistant business managers for IBEW Local 17; and Stowe, who helped lead the company’s overall efforts.
On May 22, Puerto Rico Power and Light Authority (PREPA) announced that 99 percent of its customers have been restored.