NPU provides mutual aid to US Virgin Islands
A number of Norwich Public Utilities (NPU) linemen were dispatched assist with mutual aid efforts in the US Virgin Islands between the end of October and mid-December under the supervision of the Northeast Public Power Association (NEPPA). Every member of the NPU Line Department was part of a two-man rotation as part of this effort, with most employees working in the USVI for about three weeks.
While NPU has a long-standing commitment to mutual aid efforts, we do not make crews and equipment available to assist other utilities unless or until we are meeting the needs of our community. This approach allowed us to respond to the severe weather and related outages that impacted Norwich on October 29-30 and the recent blizzard in a safe, timely and efficient manner.
The US Virgin Islands continue to struggle in the aftermath of the Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Initial reports were that every utility pole on the islands was either damaged or brought down; power plants and transmission lines also suffered significant damage. As a result, the power restoration process has been very challenging and labor intensive.
Despite a number of challenges, including the terrane, heat and humidity (our linemen are working in full fire-retardant gear), the NPU and NEPPA employees made very significant progress during their time in the USVI, which included rebuilding the backbone of the utility infrastructure and connecting hundreds of individual service lines to homes across the islands.
The travel, scheduling and logistical arrangements for NPU’s support were also a challenge, with very few flights arriving in St. Thomas as the airport and infrastructure of the islands suffered considerable damage from the hurricanes. Day-to-day activities on the islands remain in flux, with mutual aid personnel, equipment and supplies coming and going with great frequency and inconsistent schedules.