JUNO BEACH – WEATHER – Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) are telling customers to prepare for widespread and prolonged power outages, as powerful Hurricane Irma is forecast to make landfall near Southwest Florida on Sunday.
“We are already responding to Hurricane Irma with the largest pre-storm restoration workforce ever assembled, not just in our company’s history, but in U.S. history,” said Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL. “We have an army of more than 16,000 hardworking men and women committed to restoring power as the first bands of severe weather impact our service territory and they will work continuously before, during and after the storm clears until all customers have power again. This team is almost three times the size of our everyday restoration team and about 25 percent larger than our pre-storm workforce in advance of Hurricane Matthew last year.”
The majority of Florida, including some of the most densely populated areas, will be impacted by this powerful and deadly storm. Based upon the current forecast path, intensity and FPL’s historical modeling, the company anticipates millions of customers could lose power.
“To be in the best possible position to restore power to our customers, FPL has adjusted the pre-positioning of its crews and equipment, and will continue to do so, as Irma’s track evolves,” said Silagy. “This allows our crews to swarm the hardest-hit areas and restore power safely and as quickly as possible. In addition, our customers along the East Coast of Florida should not become complacent because Irma’s forecasted track has shifted west. This is a deadly and devastating hurricane and every part of Florida will feel the wrath of this storm. Florida’s peninsula is only approximately 160 miles wide and this storm stretches more than 300 miles, so we expect storm surge and tropical storm-force winds or higher across our entire service territory. The most important thing now is to ensure customers have completed their final storm preparations and are ready to ride out this storm safely.”
Some customers may experience more than one outage throughout the duration of the event, and prolonged outages may occur, especially if Irma’s impact requires rebuilding part of the electric system before power can be restored. Given Irma’s new projected path, FPL anticipates that much of its electric system in Southwest Florida will need to be rebuilt, which could take weeks. In contrast, we anticipate the damage on Florida’s East Coast to be less severe, allowing for a restoration effort that may be completed within days of the storm passing.
Flooding, storm surge, fallen structures, debris and severe damage from potential tornadoes can affect the speed of power restoration. While we have been extremely aggressive with our tree trimming and vegetation-management program each and every year, this will likely be Mother Nature’s first wholesale clearing effort in South Florida in more than a decade, which will contribute to excess debris. Following severe weather, FPL crews must cut away trees and other vegetation that have fallen into power lines, or that are blocking access, to locate and fix damage safely and as quickly as possible. Workers will operate bucket trucks and restore service in between bands of severe weather, as long as winds are below 35 mph and conditions are safe.
“We thank our customers in advance for their patience during what we anticipate will be one of the most challenging rebuild and restoration efforts in our company’s history,” Silagy said. “We take our responsibility to our customers – who include our own families, friends and neighbors –seriously. As the storm clears our service territory, more and more people will get their lights back on every hour of every day. We commit to do everything we can to help your lives return to normal as quickly as possible.”
Please stay safe
Even when winds have subsided, you may still encounter dangerous conditions. Safety is always FPL’s first priority. We urge customers to make it their top priority, too. Customers should:
- Stay far away from downed power lines, flooding and debris; lines could be energized and dangerous. Call 911 and 1-800-4OUTAGE (1-800-468-8243) if you see a downed power line.
- Use extreme caution while driving. Power interruptions may cause traffic signals to stop working without warning. If you come to an intersection with a non-working traffic signal, Florida law requires that you treat it as a four-way stop. Avoid driving on flooded roadways.
- If using a portable generator:
- Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for proper use;
- Plug appliances directly into the generator, not into the main electric panel, because the electricity may flow back into power lines and cause severe injuries to both you and our crews;
- Only a licensed electrician should connect a generator to a main electric panel;
- Never operate a generator inside your home or garage; and
- Keep generators well away from open windows to prevent dangerous fumes from entering your home or a neighbor’s home.
- Ensure that all electric appliances, especially ovens and stoves, are turned off to prevent fires.
- Heed warnings, curfews and evacuation orders and keep a close eye on the development of the storm.
- Know how to identify FPL workers:
- FPL employees carry a photo identification badge.
- The cars and trucks of non-FPL employees who are helping with restoration efforts are typically marked as FPL-approved contractors or emergency workers.
- FPL employees, contractors and workers from other utilities helping with post-storm restoration efforts may need to work on your property, but they will not need to enter your home or business.
- Exercise caution and avoid all power lines when cleaning up hurricane debris and vegetation:
- No trimming should be done near a power line. Do not attempt to remove or trim foliage within 10 feet of a power line. If a tree or tree limbs have fallen on a power line or pulled it down, do not approach the line or the tree. Report downed power lines or sparking electrical equipment by calling 911 or 1-800-4OUTAGE (1-800-468-8243).
- Be especially careful when working with any extended equipment or tools. Be sure that ladders or scaffolds are far enough away so that you – and the ends of the tools you’re using – stay at least 10 feet away from power lines.
Additional safety tips are available at FPL.com/storm. In addition, customers can download the new FPL Mobile App for on-the-go, instant and secure access to their accounts. Customers can report or get the latest information on an outage. The app is available for download in the iOS App Store and Google Play. Since the app launched at the beginning of storm season, there has been more than 400,000 downloads.
How we restore power
FPL has one of the strongest electric systems in the country, but no utility is hurricane-proof, especially when facing a storm such as Irma. As long as it’s safe, crews will be restoring power as the first bands of severe weather hit, and will work continuously after the storm clears until all customers have power again. Immediately following the hurricane, we will send out teams to conduct first-hand damage assessments, so we can estimate what rebuilding may be necessary and when repairs will be finished and power restored in each affected area.
We don’t restore power based on when customers report an outage, where customers live or the status of accounts. Rather, we begin in multiple locations and follow an overall plan that calls for restoring power to the largest number of customers safely and as quickly as possible:
- We start by repairing any damage to our power plants and the power lines that carry electricity from our plants to the local substations.
- We prioritize restoring power to critical facilities, such as hospitals, police and fire stations, communication facilities, water treatment plants and transportation providers.
- At the same time, we work to return service to the largest number of customers in the shortest amount of time − including service to major thoroughfares that host supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations and other needed community services.
- From here, we repair the infrastructure serving smaller groups and neighborhoods, converging on the hardest-hit areas until every customer’s power is restored.
Once restoration begins, there are a few ways customers can help:
- Avoid stopping crews to ask when power will be restored. Directing questions to FPL restoration workers slows down their work and, more importantly, can compromise their safety. Typically, restoration workers don’t know restoration times. They’ve been assigned to a single segment of an affected line. FPL will provide estimated times of restoration through the media, Facebook, Twitter and FPL.com.
- When you’re out driving, clear the way for FPL trucks so that crews can get to their next work site faster. The restoration workers truly appreciate this courtesy, as they work long hours to get the power back on for all affected customers.
- When gathering post-storm debris, keep utility poles and transformers clear so that restoration workers have access to them.
How to stay informed
FPL communicates restoration information to customers frequently through the news media and the following resources:
- FPL website: FPL.com
- Twitter: twitter.com/insideFPL
- Facebook: facebook.com/FPLconnect
- FPL blog: FPLblog.com
- FPL Power Tracker: FPL.com/powertracker
- FPL App: Download from the iOS App Store or Google Play