SAN ANTONIO – Monday was a new day for a couple of CPS Energy workers as they made their way back home to San Antonio after spending 30 days helping to restore power in Puerto Rico.
Lawrence Aguayo, CPS Energy construction manager, and Manuel Gonzalez, CPS Energy senior safety manager, have been in the Catalina area since Feb. 2. Their services came to fruition after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria, a category 5 hurricane.
“Our mission was to help the people restore power,” Aguayo said. “We wanted to make sure everyone was doing it safely and correctly.”
According to the electric company, more than 3 million people were without power when the hurricane hit September 2017. That number has since reduced thanks to the help of many electric companies across the nation.
“There is still a lot of damage,” Aguayo said.. “Some areas you can’t even get trucks through.”
Gonzales added that lack of materials was another obstacle they had to overcome.
“It was very difficult at first because we had to get the material,” Gonzales said. “When we first got there, there was not material on the island so we had to spoon feed the crews to make sure that didn’t stop them from working.”
Aguayo said the roads were also a challenge they had to get used to.
“They are very different than the roads here in San Antonio,” Aguayo said. “They were real narrow and up the hill. We had to work in mountains as well. It was a challenge but we got it done.”
Gonzales said by the time they completed their mission, 91 percent of the power had been restored in the region where they were working. Aguayo said he predicts 95 percent of Puerto Rico will be done by the end of March.
“This experience was emotional,” Aguayo said. “Just seeing the people and the devastation they had went through was tough.”
Gonzalez said he experienced many moments that tugged at his heart, but one he remembers best was dealing with a family who had a son on a life support.
“Ten days after we got there I found a family that had son on life support and had been running it on a generator for about 149 days since the hurricane,” said Gonzalez. “I knew what they needed and couldn’t get it for our crews and other crews couldn’t get it for theirs so I thought in the back of my mind and soon I was able to find what they needed. We got it down there to them and Saturday we received confirmation that they got their power back up.
Both men say they are appreciative of their experiences even if it was such a stressful situation.
“We came together as brothers in different utilities,” Aguayo said. “We worked hard and got the mission done together. Two more guys are picking up where we left off and they will continue the mission.”
“While we were there, the people were just amazing,” Gonzalez said. “They were very humbled people with not a whole lot to give, (but even with) the devastation that they have been through they were still making lunch for all of our crew to have and it was amazing.”
The men said they are happy to be back home with their families but are more honored to have helped others in need.
“Give thanks for everything you have because there are still some people that are in very bad shape over there right now. We are blessed. I am just happy that I could help.”