Duke Energy crews head to Puerto Rico in hopes of restoring power

Only 55 percent of island with power four months after Hurricane Maria

SANFORD, Fla. – The journey begins on the tarmac at the Orlando Sanford International Airport as 61 Duke Energy employees board a Million Air flight and prepare to head to Puerto Rico.

The group is off to restore power to the people on the island after Hurricane Maria.

"I think we can make a big difference when we get there,” Tommie Parker, of Duke Energy, said. “We have a lot of talent going. These guys are good at what they do."

Puerto Rico is still trying to recover after the deadly storm tore through the island in September. Almost four months later, only 55 percent of the island has electricity. The United States Army Corps of Engineers predicts the entire island will have power by May.

Duke Energy is joining the efforts to make that possible.

Last weekend, crews loaded bucket trucks, equipment and supplies on barges for the trip to Puerto Rico ahead of Sunday's flight.

Once the equipment and crews arrive on the island, they'll get to work right away.

"It's exciting to go over and help like we do. It's what we do here and it's the thing we are going to do when we go over there," Parker said.

Crews said they know restoring power will take time. It will also take them away from their families and homes for up to 45 days.

Patricia Mathis, the wife of a Duke Energy electrician, said she will miss her husband deeply, but she knows he’s doing important work.

"This is the longest we've had him gone,” Mathis said. “But we know that he's doing a great thing so we're just going to buckle down and do what we have to do until he comes back."

Loved ones, like Mathis’ son, said it was hard to say their goodbyes, but they’re happy knowing it will help so many people.

"It makes me feel happy, but also sad that he has to go,” the boy said. “But I'm also happy because he's doing it for a good cause."

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