Florida utilities are preparing for Hurricane Ian to bring torrential rains, high winds and rising seas, and they say they have tapped thousands of workers for an expected lengthy recovery effort. Much of southern Florida is already experiencing impacts of the storm Wednesday morning ahead of landfall.
“I encourage our customers to prepare for extended power outages. Please stay safe,” Tampa Electric President and CEO Archie Collins said in a statement on Tuesday.
The utility expects about 3,000 workers from a dozen states to help restore power after the storm passes. The storm “has the potential to cause significant destruction, and we are doing everything we can to prepare for a safe restoration,” Collins said.
Hurricane Ian is expected to “cause catastrophic storm surge, winds and flooding in the Florida peninsula starting later today,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in an 8 a.m. update Wednesday morning. The storm is expected to make landfall this afternoon, and NOAA anticipates the center of the storm to hit central Florida tonight and Thursday morning.
Maximum sustained winds remain near 155 mph, NOAA said, putting it on the cusp of a Category 5 storm. Hurricane Ian’s pace is expected to slow as it makes landfall. In a Wednesday press conference, Gov. Ron DeSantis, R, warned that Ian could move at “almost a crawl ... and dump an inordinate amount of rain.”
Central and Northeast Florida could get 12 to 18 inches of rain, according to NOAA, with some locations seeing up to 24 inches.
Duke Energy Corp. said it is “initially mobilizing nearly 10,000 lineworkers, tree professionals, damage assessment and support personnel to safe locations in its Florida service areas. They will be prepared to respond to outages once it is safe to do so.”
Florida Power & Light Co. urged customers “to prepare for widespread power outages over multiple days” and said it has a restoration workforce of nearly 16,000 that includes mutual assistance crews from 27 states. The utility has seen some outages from early bands of wind and said its team is “already restoring power.”
According to PowerOutage.us, FPL had more than 86,000 customers without power as of about 8 a.m.
In total, more than 30,000 workers from almost two dozen states are preparing to assist in the recovery, according to Edison Electric Institute, which represents investor-owned utilities.
“EEI and electric companies in Florida and the Southeast are closely tracking Hurricane Ian and have activated their emergency response plans. They are prepositioning crews and equipment to be ready to respond to any power outages quickly and as soon as it is safe to do so,” the group said.