Since Hurricane Maria hit the U.S. Virgin Islands in September, Western Area Power Administration and local utility crews from the USVI Water and Power Authority have partnered in a systematic approach to restore power. It is not a simple process, according to Mark Gabriel, CEO of WAPA. Rough terrain, unseen safety hazards and extensive infrastructure damage from the impacts of Hurricanes Irma and Maria complicate the effort.
WAPA deployed 25 transmission line experts and a fleet of 10 vehicles to St. Thomas. Since Sept. 26, the crews have been working seven days a week, from sunrise to sunset, in hot, humid conditions to fix the island’s electrical backbone. In partnership with USVI power authority contract staff, they are setting poles and getting transmission line conductors back in the air. The effort takes a toll on personnel and involves a significant amount of time to repair due to the magnitude of damage.
“Our crews’ priority is to restore the transmission lines between St. Thomas substations. The transmission system feeds the island’s distribution system. It is also the bridge to power restoration on St. John,” Gabriel said. “Once the crews finish repairs to the transmission line and re-energize East End Substation, the submarine cable that delivers power from St. Thomas to St. John can be restored.”