JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Forty-one JEA personnel boarded a plane Sunday headed for 30 days in Puerto Rico, where 90 percent of residents are still without power nearly three weeks after Hurricane Maria tore through the island.
The local linemen and electric support personnel will help rebuild the country's electric infrastructure.
"When you go over there and turn the lights on and see that smile on their face, to know that they have power and A/C and running water, it’s just a thing linemen like to do," said Robert Hess, who has been with JEA for 10 years.
The men said goodbye to their loved ones at Cecil Field.
"My wife and kids understand the situation were in. We tried to spend a little time with them -- the few hours we had left -- bring them here to the airport with us to send us off to go over there and help restore power to people in need," Hess said.
Michael Corbitt, a JEA lineman for 17 years, doesn't like to be away from home, but knows his wife and children respect what he’s doing.
"You’re not really sure what you’re going to encounter, but we are blessed with a special gift to go help people," said Michael Corbitt, a JEA lineman for 17 years. "That’s the one thing -- we’re very proud of what we do."
JEA has committed to 90 days of help for Puerto Rico. These men are in the first rotation.
"You have to rebuild an entire system from the transmission to the distribution, so it will be a lot involved and it will be a lengthy process, but it’s nice to be able to get over there and get started," Corbitt said.