Local U.S. Army Corps of Engineers employees work to restore pow - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Local U.S. Army Corps of Engineers employees work to restore power in Puerto Rico

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Kreg Buryta (USACE QA) and contractor personnel (Louis Berger Group) working on a generator Kreg Buryta (USACE QA) and contractor personnel (Louis Berger Group) working on a generator

SAN JOSE, Puerto Rico- It's been more than six months since Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico. And while most of the island now has electricity and running water, some areas feel completely forgotten. 

 So to help, nineteen employees from the Walla Walla U.S. Army Corps of Engineers District were deployed on March 18th to assist FEMA with relief efforts. 

Action Officer Kevin Kuhar said their team is stationed in San Jose for 45 days. They are specifically working on providing temporary generators to critical public facilities like hospitals and police stations.

The Army Corps of Engineers said about 80 percent of the power grid was affected by Irma and Maria. Since then, they have provided temporary power and housing, while working on permanent solutions. 

Kuhar said although 95-99 percent of power is restored in main areas, some parts of Puerto Rico are still dealing with the effects of Maria. And even though Kuhar and his team work 12 hour days, 7 days a week, he says providing power for these people is one of the most rewarding things he's ever done. 

The Puerto Rican government said the storms caused an estimated 31 billion dollars in damage to housing and has placed some blame for lack of resources to their territorial status, which it says plays a big role in how the federal government is responding to the disaster.

FEMA said in a statement that it continues to work with Puerto Rico's government and other agencies and groups, and noted that the response to the hurricane was the longest sustained domestic air mission of food and water and the largest disaster air mission in US history.\

So more than half a year later, things are finally starting to get up and running but there is lots of work to be done. Tens of thousands still wait for permanent shelter, water, or power as the next hurricane season approaches.

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