Disaster Relief Brings Co-Op Full-Circle

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Disaster Relief Brings Co-Op Full-Circle

April 25, 2018

Southern Company’s international restoration efforts help student’s home country when she can’t.

A native of the municipality of Sabana Grande in the southwest of Puerto Rico, electrical engineering major at University of Puerto Rico, Celeste Vázquez, jumped at doing a co-op program in America— not knowing the lasting impact it would leave on her career, life and home country.

Vázquez worked with Georgia Power as a distribution engineer in Marietta, GA, where she learned and developed skills that provide energy to Georgia Power customers. These foundational skills became even more relevant when Hurricane Irma hit Georgia in September of 2017. It was then that she found herself working in real-time disaster relief efforts, doing whatever it took to get the power back on.  

Just days later, Hurricane Maria formed in the Caribbean and brought catastrophic damage to her home, Puerto Rico. After Maria, the importance of Vázquez’s work hit home, “For me, this work has always been more than providing energy. It’s about helping sustain life. To be able to help people who need it means a lot to me, especially during a time when I couldn’t help my family back home,” said Vázquez.

After returning home, Vázquez started utilizing what she learned through her co-op program by conducting research that will contribute to her senior project focused on improving Puerto Rico’s energy supply. Once she heard the news that Southern Company was sending teams to assist with power restoration efforts in Puerto Rico, she was filled with pride knowing the Southern Company’s impact would accompany her own– helping restore power in desperate times.

After graduating, Vasquez wants to join the Southern Company family full-time.

Restoration efforts are still underway in Puerto Rico. As of April 11, 2018, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers reported that 96.9% of customers across the island have had their service restored.

Achieving 95% restoration in remote areas with mountainous terrain, like Arecibo and Caguas, will take until mid-April and late-May, respectively.

There are still approximately 900 mutual assistance workers on the island. Follow the restoration progress on social media using the hashtag #PoweringPR.