Millions without power in Florida as FPL warns of 'extensive' Irma rebuild
- Hurricane Irma knocked out power to 5.9 million electric customers in Florida, the state disaster agency reports, including most of Florida Power & Light customers in the southernmost counties of the state.
- As of Monday, 800,000 customers were without power in Miami-Dade County, 640,000 in Broward County, and 526,000 in Palm Beach County, according to FPL's the utility's outage tracker.
- Hurricane Irma made landfall as a Category 4 storm over the weekend but has since weakened to a tropical storm. On Monday morning the storm was north of Tampa, moving at about 18 mph. Weather Underground reports the damage was muted because the storm decreased in strength and made landfall on the west coast in more unpopulated areas.
Irma is still moving north as tropical storm after being downgraded from a Category 1 hurricane this morning. As it continues to batter Florida, FPL is already beginning to bring power back online in hard-hit southern regions.
The task is daunting — more than 50% of customers in the largest southern counties are without power this morning. FPL had almost two million outages on Monday out of fewer than three million customers and officials say parts of the state's grid will need to be rebuilt and outages could be lengthy.
"Despite Irma's exceedingly high winds, tornadic activity, storm surge and severe flooding, FPL has restored power to hundreds of thousands of customers, due largely to automation along its energy grid," President and CEO Eric Silagy said in a Sunday statement.
"Due to the fact that Irma has slowed considerably, we're seeing significant damage and severe flooding in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, with Irma's impacts now being felt in Palm Beach County and northern coastal communities," he said. "We expect the west coast to be the hardest-hit area, requiring an extensive rebuild of our energy grid. As a result, our west coast customers will likely be without power for a much longer period of time."
The utility stressed that grid hardening investments were paying off.
"As of this afternoon, we have restored more than 350,000 outages in the midst of Hurricane Irma, primarily as a result of the $3 billion invested over the past decade to make our electric system stronger and smarter," the utility noted in its statement.
Farther south, the Florida Keys Electric Cooperative Association (FKECA) reported yesterday that 27,000 of its 32,000 accounts were without power, with power completely out from Snake Creek through Key West. The utility said it continued to have transmission service from the mainland to Tavernier.
"The bulk of the assistance we requested well before Irma’s impact is already on its way," FKECA said. "We hope to have this outside manpower and resources staged in Homestead by Tuesday.
In the meantime, FKECA officials plan to start preliminary damage assessments on Monday using a helicopter to check on facilities in Marathon. The utility added that there was no cell phone, land line telephone or internet service at least from Marathon through Key West.
Recovery efforts also continue in Puerto Rico, where about 70% of the island's population lost power last week. The storm exposed issues with power grid infrastructure neglected for years, The New York Times noted over the weekend. The island's sole electricity provider, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, narrowly escaped defaulting on a $415 million bond payment in July.
- The Washington Post Hurricane Irma to batter Florida Peninsula, turn its sights on Georgia
- The Wall Street Journal Irma Knocks Out Power to Millions of Customers in Florida
- The New York Times Irma Grazes Puerto Rico but Lays Bare an Infrastructure Problem
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