CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Dozens of Duke Energy line workers returned home to Charlotte Thursday after spending nearly two months in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.
Crews arrived on the island in January to help restore power after Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria hit.
"You can't imagine what the whole island looks like. Looks like an F-4 tornado went across the whole island," lineman Gary Adams said.
The powerful storms hit six months ago and left more than 1 million people without power. But despite all the work done, 11 percent of Puerto Rico still doesn’t have power and many are still living in temporary homes.
"The thing that really bothers me the most about this trip was we left after 54 days and people in Puerto Rico still don't have power," Adams said.
The line workers would wake up at 4 a.m. and work grueling 15-hour days for 13 days straight before getting one day off.
Crews said restoring power has been difficult because in Charlotte, workers follow detailed plans, but in Puerto Rico, the standards aren't as specific and line workers have to get creative to work around ravines and mountains.
When crews started work in the southern part of the island in January, only 68 percent of the area had power. By the time workers left, power had been restored to 98 percent of the area.
"You drive in and they're cheering for you. When you leave and they're cheering for you when you get power on," Adams said.
But workers said one of the biggest challenges is the time they've missed with their families. One touching moment occurred when a grandfather who was doing work on the island broke down after getting to hold his grandson for the first time in nearly two months.
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