TECO team members have been eager to visit Emera sister companies in the Caribbean since before the close of the acquisition in July. But a crew from Tampa Electric on Grand Bahama Island right now might not have expected the opportunity would come in the midst of a crisis – with devastation from Hurricane Matthew that includes massive power outages and worse for the residents there.
Tampa Electric’s first-ever mutual assistance effort outside of the United States has brought more than 30 team members to help Grand Bahama Power Company. Showcasing a spirit of camaraderie with Emera-owned GBPC and joined by a crew of 50 from Emera Maine, they’re bringing the same post-storm restoration expertise they’ve honed over the years to help the community get back on its feet after 140-mph winds felled more than 1,000 power poles.
Emera Caribbean President and CEO Sarah MacDonald said, “We could never have achieved this level of support without being part of the Emera family of companies.” MacDonald is also the new president of TECO Services, Inc. and noted how support from her Emergency Management and other logistics teams in Tampa is helping with the restoration effort.
The TECO crew, which arrived last weekend, is using more than a dozen heavy vehicles that had to travel on separate ships. In the words of Jason Pressley, manager of Distribution Engineering & Operations and one of the leaders of Tampa Electric’s crew, every piece of equipment – and most of all, every ounce of dedication to excellence, safety and health from all those immersed in the restoration effort – is critical.
Pressley shared the following by email on the afternoon of Oct. 11:
Lots of devastation here. Most houses or structures have roof damage and/or the roof is gone. We don’t have a roof on our hotel so not sure what we will do if it rains. No one on the top floor of the hotel so the rain would have to leak through the top floor first. Saw leaking oil in the port, which looked especially bad against the beautiful turquoise water. There appeared to be lots of damage at the port with shipping containers crushed and flipped over. Also a huge crane in the water. We struggled for a full day to get the generator going at the hotel. We now have a/c and lights in our rooms. The people of Grand Bahama have been very nice and appreciative of us coming to help. I understand that they have never had a utility come help them before. So lots of firsts for this trip- also our first trip out of the country on mutual assistance. Lots of customers have commented that they have never seen folks working so hard. A lot of people have no jobs since there is still no power on the island. Most roads are blocked by power poles and downed lines, but getting better each day.
Gerry Chasse, vice president of Electric Delivery with Tampa Electric, praised the ongoing effort in a situation that has tested all involved – not least of which are the residents and businesses of Grand Bahama Island.
“The wall of the hurricane’s eye passed right over the island – they caught the full force of a massive storm,” he said. “We continue to assess damage and progress in the restoration effort, and more crews will be heading down to provide relief for the first crew, which has been working nearly nonstop, and to bolster the overall effort.”
He added, “We’re all affected deeply by the knowledge of what the situation is like on Grand Bahama Island and other communities who have experienced catastrophic devastation and loss of life from the storm. But crewmembers with TECO, Emera, Grand Bahama Power Company and elsewhere have come together to tackle a monumental need.
“It’s what everybody’s trained to do, and they’ll keep at it until it’s finished.”
Look for more updates to come as the restoration effort continues.