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Fla. Utilities Gear Up for Hurricane Irma

September 8, 2017

With 6.2 million utility customers without power as of Monday morning, utilities across the State of Florida have prepared their fleets to minimize damage and respond in a timely manner. 

Florida Power & Light (FPL) customers were the most affected, reports the Wall Street Journal, with 4.2 million of its 5 million customers facing power outages. Before the storm reached Florida on Friday, the utility had restoration crews, trucks, and equipment stationed at more than 20 staging sites throughout its service area. Prior to storm season, the utility conducts extensive training, secures agreements for assistance from out-of-state utilities and electrical contracting companies, orders backup supplies and equipment, and plans staging sites.

Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA) plans to increase its fleet of generators ahead of the storm in an effort to prevent the results of Hurricane Matthew last year, when sewage overflowed at 70 locations, reports the Florida Times-Union. In October 2016 JEA had 250 generators at lift stations and 60 portable generators. Now, it has 350 fixed generators, 100 rental generators, and 80 portable generators.

JEA will also offer more leeway for workers. Previously, workers were not allowed out when winds reached 40 mph. Now, workers will be allowed to go to lift stations as safety permits, but are still not allowed in bucket trucks when winds reach 40 mph.

Gulf Power’s customers have not experienced a hurricane in more than 10 years, but the utility is ready to respond as needed; its teams have traveled to 14 different states to assist in power restoration efforts since 2008.

Duke Energy Florida said its crews are preparing to respond quickly and safely should the storm impact its service area.

"An important part of being safe during a hurricane is being prepared," said Harry Sideris, Duke Energy Florida president. "At Duke Energy, we prepare for storms every day of the year and we want to help our customers get ready now so they can react quickly during Hurricane Irma."

Utilities across Florida are preparing for Hurricane Irma, but they will not be alone. Several utilities have sent crews to assist restoration efforts in Florida.

Springfield City Utility in Mo. Has sent four bucket trucks, twelve lineman, a safety officer, and a mechanic who have volunteered to help, reports KSPR. The crew was originally on standby to travel to Houston, and was contacted by JEA to assist.

200 Consumers Energy employees and contract personnel are traveling to Florida and expected to remain for up to two weeks. The utility is working with FPL, according to a release.  

Editor's Note: Story was updated 9/11 to include the amount of utility customers affected by outages.

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