As Hurricane Irma threatens Florida, Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) is prepared to take action. Rob Gould, vice president and chief communication officer, says over the last week, the utility's meteorologists have been keeping a close eye on the storm, and the company has activated its command center and mobilized crews.
"We have a restoration force of 11,000 strong, and I expect that will grow as we get closer into the storm's approach," he said in a press conference today.
Many of the linemen, vegetation management and tree trimming crews will begin arriving today, and then FPL will deploy them throughout the territory where the impacts will likely occur.
"We want to minimize windshield time by getting the crews as close to where the greatest impact will occur first," he says, stating that many will be stationed further south in the Miami-Dade and Tri-County areas.
As the hurricane approaches, some utilities have provided mutual assistance to FPL, while others are waiting to see where the hurricane hits before sending crews.
"Utilities up and down the East Coast and Gulf Coast are holding crews so they don't leave themselves vulnerable to the wrath of Irma," Gould says. "We have a small army coming in of linemen and tree and vegetation crews, and the goal is to restore the customers' power and get the lights back on as quickly and safely as we can."
With a storm of Irma's magnitude, Gould says every hour counts, and as such, FPL has advised its customers to take precautions. Also, since 2005, when the last major hurricane hit FPL's service territory, the utility has taken its own proactive steps to harden its system. For example, it has strengthened main power lines, placed hundreds of lines underground, installed flood monitoring systems at its substations, and replaced wood poles with concrete poles. In addition, the linemen have made some poles shorter to make the wires less apt to drop if a tree branch falls on the power line.
Also, FPL has equipped its line crews with iPads so they can determine which houses still do not have power. That way, they can ensure that all the power has been restored before they leave a particular neighborhood. Despite all these measures, however, Gould says that there will be outages.
"This will be a hurricane unlike anything we have ever seen that will approach the continental U.S.," he says. "There's no way to hurricane proof an electric system. It's virtually impossible. If the hurricane stays on its current path, many of our customers will have outages, and it may be a situation where we will have to rebuild, not just restore the power system, which could take weeks if not longer. Our workforce will be working 24/7 as long as it is safe to do so."
Note: View the video of the press conference from Florida Power & Light Company for more information.