Prolonged Power Outages in the Aftermath of Hurricane Irma

hurricane irma power outages
Originally posted at NASA

On August 30, 2017, the Hurricane Center began forecasting Hurricane Irma as a low-pressure system. As tracking proceeded, the Center watched as winds intensified causing considerable damage in Cuba. The storm was on track to hit Florida within days. Residents were advised to evacuate causing a chaotic atmosphere, clogging highways and causing gas shortages. Now, in the storm’s aftermath, the death toll rises as the area struggles to deal with damages and to restore power to many residences.

Power Outages in Florida

The power outages in Florida residences are considerable and may be longer lasting than anticipated. In fact, 6.5 million electricity customers are left without power. This accounts for 2/3 of all electricity customers in the state.

Not only are there a great number of people without power, but restoration of power is predicted to take quite some time, weeks in some cases. This is due to the fact that some portions of the electricity grid actually has to be rebuilt. Other areas can not even be accessed due to flooding, another factor which is delaying progress.

Southern Company is working hard on getting the power restored, but they are saying they may require the help of 50,000 to 60,000 workers from all over the United States. On Sept. 11, the company released the following tweet:

Duke Energy is another company that is working hard to bring power back to the area. They serve 1.8 million customers in central and northwestern Florida and they are struggling to bring power back to 1.2 million homes and businesses. On Sept. 13, they released the following update via Twitter:

Florida Power and Light Company are also doing their part. They provide power to 4.9 million accounts and have about 3.5 million customers without power as of Monday afternoon, Sept. 11. They released the following tweet on Wednesday Sept. 13:

Despite the fact that progress is being made, other areas might expect to be without power for quite some time. Florida Power and Light vice president and chief communications officer Robert Gould explains, “This is not a typical restoration that you are going to see. We actually for the first time in our company history have our entire 27,000 square mile, 35 county territory under assault by Irma.”

Quote taken from CNBC.

hurricane irma power outages
Originally posted at Wikipedia

FPL is working methodically, targeting first power plants, transmission lines and substations for restoration. They would then turn their attention to critical facilities like hospitals and water treatment plants. Next on their list would be businesses that provide community services including gas stations, and supermarkets.

Although the process for restoring power is a long and arduous one, it is fortunate that the utility companies like FPL have experience with catastrophic storms and have upgraded their systems in preparation. They have invested billions into making their systems more resilient, following the storms of 2004 and 2005. This allowed FPL the ability to reroute power and address about 1.5 million outages. Nonetheless, systems have still been tested significantly. FPL will continue to be improving and updating technology in preparation of the event of future storms.

Other preventative measures have been taken, such as placing 19,500 restoration workers before the storm hit. However, bucket trucks can not be used in these areas due to continuing high winds. Workers must wait for these to die down before proceeding with restoration.

Duke Energy has also upgraded their system in preparation for storms. They equipped 28% of their system with capabilities of providing power remotely and continue to work on improvements. They deployed more than 9,000 linesmen and support crew members to areas affected by Irma. However, the amount of time it will take to restore power is still unknown.

Power Outages in Georgia

Unfortunately, Florida is not the only state that is without power in the wake of Irma. Georgia has also been effected. Strong winds have knocked down trees bringing power lines with them. Residents of Georgia may also be without power for weeks.

Georgia Power is working to restore electricity in residences, mobilizing more than 5,000 workers with the help of the Army National Guard. They have also been active on Twitter, aiding residents with personalized advice and responses to their tweets. As of Sept. 14, this is the company’s latest Twitter update:

 

Advice to Those Without Power

Those without power should be advised to do the following:

  • Stay away from downed power lines or debris laden areas where downed power lines may be concealed. Downed power lines should be reported to your local utility companies.
  • If your power goes out, disconnect all electronic equipment and appliances. Leave a single light on to alert you if power if restored.
  • Visit FPL.com/storm or call 1-800-OUTAGE to stay on top of updated news of possible power restoration.
  • Once power is restored, turn on lights and appliances one at a time.
  • If your neighbor’s power is restored and yours is not, check your circuit breakers to make sure they are not at fault. Inspect the meter as well.

Those who wish to make a difference can donate to those who have suffered loss due to the Hurricane through the many resources online. To all the residents that are without power, or have incurred loss or damage due to Hurricane Irma, USESI wishes you the best in making a safe recovery. You are in our thoughts during this trying time.

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