Florida Power & Light Co. (FPL) announced on Sept. 20 that more than 11,000 workers continue restoring service in the hardest-hit areas of Southwest Florida. The company has restored service to nearly all of its 4.4 million customers, or more than 99 percent, impacted by Irma.
FPL also is closely monitoring the condition of a fellow restoration worker who was seriously injured this afternoon while restoring power near Sarasota. FPL officials are in close contact with FirstEnergy Corp., which employs the injured worker, and is offering its full support to the company.
"Our hearts and prayers tonight are with our colleague, his family and the entire FirstEnergy team as we grapple with this serious incident," said Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL. "The thousands of men and women who have been working day and night to restore power to the millions of FPL customers since Hurricane Irma struck are true heroes and this tragic situation is a stark and painful reminder of the dangers they face each and every day. We pray for our colleague's recovery and will do all we can to help support his family and the FirstEnergy family in the days and weeks ahead."
As of Sept. 20, power restoration was essentially complete in all 35 counties served by FPL, with the exception of Glades, Lee and Collier counties, where restoration is more than 95 percent complete. FPL is working hard to restore more than 99 percent of customers who are able to accept power in Southwest Florida by tomorrow night, which is ahead of its original commitment of end of day Friday, Sept. 22. Customers who live in a county where power is essentially restored, but do not currently have electricity, should report their outage at FPL.com/outage.
"The damage from this powerful and slow-moving storm is staggering, and that fact continues to be reinforced as our crews collapse further into the hardest-hit areas along Florida's West Coast," said Silagy. "In Arcadia, for example, approximately 30 restoration personnel are working several days to repair 30 sections of line and install two dozen poles to restore service to a handful of customers. These men and women are facing extraordinary circumstances, including navigating tornado damage and extensive flooding that has left the area seemingly unrecognizable.
"We continue to thank our customers for their patience, especially those in Southwest Florida, who have suffered the longest without lights or air conditioning. I want those customers, in particular, to know that thousands of restoration workers are working in their area – more than triple the number of resources we had in the area just a few days ago. We remain firm in our commitment that we won't stop until every last customer has their electric service restored."
FPL has established walk-up sites for our customers in several communities. These sites provide charging stations, water, Wi-Fi, ice, community service and restoration information, and customer service assistance. Please visit FPL.com/powertracker to see locations and times.
Wrapping up restoration in areas of severe damage
All of the eastern part of FPL's territory is essentially restored – 99.9 percent of customers from the Florida/Georgia border to south of Miami have power, and the majority of the state is transitioning back to normal operations. Today, crews worked to address specific outages throughout the service territory that required additional specialized attention, including homes and businesses impacted by tornadoes, flooding, and heavy tree and debris damage. There may also be instances in which a customer's home or business is structurally damaged and unable to safely accept power.
Customers may experience outages over the coming weeks and months due to weakened trees and branches that could fall, impacting power lines and electric equipment. In addition, salt contamination along the coastline and significant wind gusts, which may loosen some electrical connections, may lead to increased outages following the storm. Some FPL customers have already experienced repeated outages since Irma struck due to these situations. In addition, we're identifying single outages that were not initially identified as outages related to Irma. We're identifying these individual customers as they report their outages and as our crews complete restoration of the neighborhood lines and identify them as still being out of service. FPL crews will continue to respond as these outages are identified.
Heavy tree, vegetation and other challenges continue
Dense vegetation debris, whole fallen trees and isolated flooding continue to cause restoration challenges in several areas of our service territory. In some cases, crews must spend hours removing debris before it is safe for restoration workers to access equipment and begin making repairs. In anticipation of the massive vegetation challenges, FPL brought in twice as many tree trimming crews to support the Irma restoration effort compared with Hurricane Wilma in 2005.
Following severe weather, crews must cut away trees and other vegetation that have fallen into power lines, or that are in the way, to find and fix damage safely and as quickly as possible. As our crews restore power, they leave debris where it falls. FPL will clear only the debris that directly affects electric equipment and power lines or access to FPL equipment. It is the responsibility of the property owner or the local government to remove other debris. Customers should contact their local government's waste management office or waste service provider for information on trash collection.
"We appreciate our partners throughout the communities we serve for their support in what is arguably the largest restoration effort in the history of the U.S., including their efforts to remove an incredible amount of debris," said Silagy. "As I've traveled each day around our service territory since Irma's passing, I have been taken aback by the amount of off right-of-way trees that have fallen into our lines knocking out power to our customers."