Local PPL workers help Puerto Rico recover

PHOTO PROVIDED John Marquette, of Montgomery, and Phil Brant, of Hughesville, both employees of PPL, spent 30 days in Puerto Rico, restoring electricity to areas that have been without power since Hurricane Maria struck the U.S. territory in late September.

Two local men returned home last week after working countless hours helping to bring electricity back to Puerto Rico, months after Hurricane Maria left most of the island without power.

Philip Brant, of Hughesville, and John Marquette, of Montgomery, both PPL Electric Utilities employees, spent the last 30 days replacing utility poles and lines in the Caguas region of Puerto Rico with 35 other PPL employees from across Pennsylvania.

Residents in the rural community south of San Juan waited for power to return to their homes ever since Maria struck the island on Sept. 20 of last year.

During the monthlong commitment, the Lycoming County men worked extended hours every day and were floored by the love that the Puerto Ricans showed them.

“The grace with which the people of Puerto Rico have faced this adversity is inspiring and humbling,” Brant said in a PPL news release. “Their hospitality and kindness is heart-


Teams worked on projects that included bringing power back to a local daycare and a nursing home, and every step of the way, the teams were welcomed with open arms by the residents they were helping. One resident brought a carafe of coffee to the crews, and Marquette recalled hearing cheers when they were able to bring electricity back to a local school.

PPL’s effort to send its employees to help return electricity to the island was part of an 18-utility company program brought together by Edison Electric Institute, an industry trade organization in Washington, D.C.

“It demonstrates that PPL cares about its core business of providing electricity and beyond that, we care about others,” said Tracie Witter, PPL regional affairs director. “When the offer came for us to go to Puerto Rico, we accepted it immediately.”

Every morning the workers would speak with a field supervisor to go over plans for the day and what the team expected to have completed by the time they went back to their lodgings that night.

Puerto Rico’s geography was a drastic difference to what the Pennsylvanian crews were used to. Roads in the area are narrow and winding, and crews worked under the warm Puerto Rican sun.

Many utility poles, which had toppled during the hurricane, had been completely covered in vegetation.

“Sometimes they could find the poles and put them back in place and other times they would replace the poles,” Witter said. “It was a challenge that our team rose to and met.”

A day before Brant and Marquette boarded a plane to return home on Feb. 24, they met with three other Lycoming County PPL employees who will take up the job and continue where the two left off.

“It’s been 30 days away from my wife and children and it’s a big sacrifice, but the people here really need our help,” Marquette said.