Half of Florida still without power as Irma churns into Southeast
- Millions remain without power Tuesday morning as electric utilities throughout the Southeast begin recovery efforts and the remnants Hurricane Irma continue to batter the U.S. mainland.
- Irma is now a tropical depression and will continue to bring rain and winds through parts of Alabama today, moving into Tennessee and Kentucky later this week, according to WeatherUnderground. The massive storm has caused 42 deaths, including five in the United States, four in the U.S. Virgin Islands and 3 in Puerto Rico.
- As of Tuesday morning, Georgia Power has almost 900,000 customers without power — about half of the utility's residential base. More than 5.6 million accounts in Florida remain without power, more than 52% of the state total.
The United States may have been spared the worst of Irma's wrath, but power grids across the Southeast took a beating and utilities in Florida are talking about recovery in terms of rebuilding, as well as repair.
According to some estimates, 7 million people remain without power on Tuesday, and utilities across the country are sending line workers to the Southeast to assist in restoration efforts. U.S. homeland security advisor Tom Bossert said at a press briefing Monday that Irma had brought "the largest ever mobilization of line restoration workers in this country."
Georgia Power reported approximately 870,000 customers without power and more than 9,500 individual cases of damage or trouble on Tuesday, including broken poles and lines that the company is working to repair. The utility said damage and outages were widespread and stretched across Georgia, with the storm knocking out service to customers around Savannah, Columbus, Atlanta and other areas.
Duke Energy yesterday said it faces about 1.2 million customer outages in Florida, though 100,000 had already had power restored.
"Restoration could take a week or longer for hardest-hit areas as the system is rebuilt," the utility said.
Duke Energy Florida serves 1.8 million customers in the state; the hardest-hit areas in Duke's territory include Pinellas, Orange, Seminole, Volusia and Highlands counties.
Florida Power & Light took the most direct hit from the storm. It estimates more than 5 million outages from Irma in total — a figure that far eclipses other storms and includes some customers who may have experienced more than one outage.
On Monday, FPL said service had been restored to just 1.1 million.
"Customers should continue to plan for prolonged outages; we must understand the full extent of damage before we can provide estimated restoration times," the utility warned in a statement. FPL has nearly 30 staging sites activated, with restoration crews, trucks and equipment coming to assist from across the U.S. and Canada.
The issues stretch beyond transmission and distribution. According to Platts, FPL crews are working to restart three nuclear units that were shut down because of the storm. The process can take a day, and work is ongoing at the Turkey Point and St. Lucie facilities.
FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy called the storm "unprecedented by almost every measure – its size, destructive power and slow movement. All 27,000 square miles and 35 counties of our service territory have been impacted."
He added that the recovery will take significant time.
"We anticipate that much of the electric system in Southwest Florida will require a complete rebuild, which could take weeks," Silagy said. "In contrast, we expect our electric system along Florida's East Coast will require more traditional repairs. Regardless, this will be a lengthy restoration effort."
Federal environmental officials are also loosening restrictions in hopes of restoring power more quickly. Over the weekend, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it would use its enforcement discretion to allow Tampa Electric Co. to operate without meeting all pollution controls at all three of its generation facilities in order to maintain the supply of electricity.
Heading into the storm, EPA gave similar guidance regarding emergency and backup generating units in Monroe County, Fla., to allow for primary backup sources of electricity for the Florida Keys to operate.
- Weather Underground Irma Brings Record Flooding to Jacksonville, Cuts Power to More Than 7 Million
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