By Jeff HawkJuly 19, 2018
The Pittsburgh District's power team recently deployed to Puerto Rico for the third time to support the longest, largest temporary emergency power mission in USACE history as part of the island's hurricane recovery effort.
The FEMA-assigned mission involved placing generators throughout the island for temporary power restoration to lifesaving facilities as well as critical communications infrastructure while crews worked to repair the electric grid power system.
Power teams, to include Pittsburgh's, have installed more generators in Puerto Rico in response to Hurricanes Maria and Irma than those installed for Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Sandy combined.
As an essential part of Task Force Emergency Power, Corps teams worked with the Army's 249th Battalion - Prime Power to install 1,330 generators to critical facilities in Puerto Rico compared to 769 for those three hurricanes.
Before the 10-month-long Puerto Rico mission, the Hurricane Sandy response held the record for the longest temporary power mission at 61 days. The Puerto Rico mission is expected to continue into the fall until all generators are returned and properly stored.
During this rotation, the 19-person Pittsburgh power team will manage 600-plus generators that remain on the island. These generators are still necessary to maintain power in remote locations and in areas where additional work is needed to restore reliable electric grid power systems.
"This is an important mission for the Corps of Engineers and for the people of Puerto Rico," said C.J. Infantino, chief, Readiness Office, Pittsburgh. "It's about keeping the lights on and helping reestablish a level of normalcy."
The disaster response in Puerto Rico yielded several firsts for Task Force Emergency Power.
The effort is the largest FEMA-assigned and -funded temporary power mission for a single storm event, totaling $520 million as of July 2018.
It is the first time all seven Army Corps power teams from across the nation deployed for 45 days, and then returned for a second 45-day stint for the same event.
It is the first Army Corps power mission to service and repair non-federal generators, totaling $35 million.
Power teams are now de-installing temporary generators at critical facilities.
"The de-installations are occurring at facilities after power has been restored for at least seven consecutive days," said Jennifer Miller, spokesperson, Task Force Puerto Rico Recovery. "After the Corps completes its current temporary power mission, generators will remain on the island to support potential future emergency operations during the 2018 hurricane season."
As an essential part of the national Task Force Emergency Power, the Pittsburgh District also manages the Army Corps' national temporary power contract.
Local and national Corps personnel joined representatives from the 249th, FEMA and the Department of Energy to staff an emergency operations center in downtown Pittsburgh for more than 300 continuous days - also a record.
The EOC has managed temporary power missions in Puerto Rico, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa since August 2017.
Additionally, the Pittsburgh power team deployed to Texas in response to Hurricane Harvey in August 2017.
The temporary power mission is only part of Pittsburgh's overall participation in Puerto Rico's recovery.
The district also led the initial phase of Puerto Rico's electric power-grid repair effort.
The Pittsburgh District's former commander, Col. John Lloyd, and an advanced team of Pittsburgh staff deployed to Puerto Rico in mid-October 2017 to stand up Task Force Power Restoration.
Lloyd led the effort for four months, assisted by many Pittsburgh staff and other Army Corps experts from around the world, until another commander rotated in.
The Army recognized Lloyd as its Military Responder of the Year.
"As the new district commander, I'm honored to lead such dedicated employees who volunteer to leave their families and help others during our nation's greatest times of need," said Col. Andrew J. Short, commander, Pittsburgh District. "I'm proud of the Pittsburgh District's significant contribution to Puerto Rico's recovery and to other disaster response efforts they participated in the past."
The Pittsburgh team is scheduled to return home in mid-August.