Irma knocked out power to over 3 million homes, businesses in Florida

Frederick Owens
September 11, 2017

Hurricane Irma has already left millions without power across southern Florida, and outage reports continue to pour in across the state as the mega-storm approaches Tampa Bay.

Parts of Florida could be without electricity for more than a week, as damage from Hurricane Irma will require a complete rebuild of portions of the electricity grid, utility executives said on Monday.

So how does FPL prioritize who gets back online first?

There are roughly 7 million residential customers in the state.

Parts of northern Florida, including Jacksonville, experienced heavy flooding, which will temporarily prevent crews from accessing some areas.

While utilities typically are allowed to bill customers for the costs of storm-related repairs, there is no guarantee they'll gain approval for those expenses, especially if they're high, he said.Florida Power & Light has about 13,500 fix workers standing ready.

The company said it has assembled the largest pre-storm workforce in USA history, with more than 16,000 people ready to respond. That's 64 percent of the state's power customers, and there are several counties where 80-90 percent of customers are without power.

According to a company website, FPL's priorities for restoring power start with its own power plants, substations and damaged transmission lines.

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Duke Energy Corp. expects more than 1 million outages, with efforts to restore power taking as long as a week or more.

'We are going to see a lot of damage.

Then, workers turn their attention to "critical facilities such as hospitals, police and fire stations, communication facilities, water treatment plants and transportation providers". It had weakened to a tropical storm by Monday morning (local time) as it headed toward Georgia.

Setree compared the projected path of Irma to Hurricane Matthew in 2016, which knocked out power to about 1.2 million FPL customers in October.

FPL said it had invested almost $3 billion since 2006 to strengthen its grid, including placing 60 main power lines underground and installing almost five million smart meters and other devices.

But restoration will take some time.

Irma poses a significantly bigger menace to power supplies in Florida than Hurricane Harvey did in Texas because Irma is packing 150 mile-per-hour winds (240 km/h) that could down electric lines and close nuclear and other power plants.

"We are in the process now of doing final checks on a few of them; we will be bringing those up", FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy told reporters.

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