JEA personnel return from helping rebuild Puerto Rico power grid

2nd rotation of 45 linemen, support personnel leaving Tuesday

By Mary Baer - 5, 6 & 10 p.m. anchor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - After a 30-day stint in Puerto Rico helping rebuild the U.S. territory's power grid, 41 JEA personnel returned to Jacksonville Tuesday night.

There's still much to be done after Hurricane Maria. There are still thousands of people without power in Puerto Rico more than a month after the disaster.

The JEA workers have been away from their families for a month as they helped reconstruct the island's electric infrastructure following catastrophic damage from hurricanes Irma and Maria.

"Thirty days has absolutely been a long time," said Courtney Hess, whose husband was in Puerto Rico. "It's felt like a long, long time."

One resident affected by Hurricane Maria posted a video showing just how excited people were to see JEA there to help.

It was a different kind of cheering as the families of the 41 linemen and support personnel showed them a warm welcome home. The crew members say they've been changed by what they saw.

"Given we've done previous storms, Irma, Matthew last year, Maria, I mean, Irma and Matthew is no comparison by far," said Anthony Alexander, with JEA.

"It's devastating. The people there are very appreciative," said Robert Hess, with JEA. "They know they'll be out for several more months. They're appreciative and grateful for what we've done."

And the work isn't over, as 42 JEA workers left for Puerto Rico on Tuesday morning to do what they can to help over the next 30 days.

JEA said the team that just came back laid 50 miles of wire in Puerto Rico, which is how many miles there are from Jacksonville to the State Road 206 exit off I-95 in southern St. Johns County.

JEA was able to get its own trucks there with the help of Crowley Maritime, which shipped them there a little over a month ago.

JEA has committed to 90 days of help for Puerto Rico.

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