As mutual aid crews from near and far continued to stream toward Florida and other parts of the Southeast hurt by Hurricane Irma — some making the long highway trek in their trucks all the way from Washington state — lineworkers and tree crews stayed on task, clearing vegetation and getting power lines working again.
Public power mutual aid coordinators received a request for specific equipment needed by Puerto Rico for its hurricane restoration work, and acted on a request for assistance from investor-owned utility Georgia Power Company, which still had more than 150,000 customers in the dark as of Thursday morning.
Hurricane Irma ripped through Florida earlier this week causing catastrophic damage and widespread power outages. At peak, nearly 7 million customers were without power, with more than 800,000 of those from Florida’s public power communities. In partnership with the American Public Power Association, FMEA put out a nationwide call for mutual aid assistance and the response from public power communities across the country was extraordinary. More than 1,000 crews from public power in Texas, Nebraska, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and across New England came to our aid.
Restoration efforts have been actively underway and will not stop until every customer is restored. to everyone that has reached out to help us, especially to all the lineworkers that suffered through fuel shortages and severe traffic problem to come to our aid – words cannot describe how grateful we are to each and every one of you. Thank you!
Officials in places hard hit by Hurricane Irma have been asking for patience as electric utilities and others work to repair the damage inflicted by high winds and high waters. That commodity is said to be wearing thin in some areas, though, as weary people in Florida, Georgia and other regions of the Southeast grapple with what has happened to their homes and communities.
With a huge mutual aid force estimated at nearly 60,000 working to clear fallen trees and get electric power flowing again, headway was reported in Florida and elsewhere, although it looks as though some people in hard-to-reach areas — including electricity customers in parts of the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico — may have a long wait.
According to the Florida Municipal Electric Association (FMEA), there are approximately 500,000 municipal utility customers without power following the three days that Hurricane Irma battered the state. Hardest hit areas for municipal electric utilities include the Florida Keys, Homestead, Moore Haven, Clewiston, Wauchula, Lakeland, Bartow, Fort Meade, Orlando, Ocala and the Jacksonville area. Currently, 37 percent of municipal electric utility customers are without power, which is down from 61 percent yesterday.
Widespread and prolonged power outages will become part of life for most Floridians over the next few days as Hurricane Irma has started to make an anticipated northern turn that will result in a destructive run through the state starting Sunday.
The storm is on a more western track than earlier in the week and is expected to bring storm surges of up to 8 feet in Tampa and 15 feet in Southwest Florida.
The Florida Municipal Electric Association (FMEA) has activated its mutual aid network and is lining up crews to restore power to areas that will be affected by Hurricane Irma.
Florida’s public power utilities already account for approximately 1,000 lineworker personnel. Additionally, FMEA is bringing in more than 1,000 lineworkers and hundreds of tree-trimming and debris removal personnel from other parts of the country. Crews will be coming from Texas, Nebraska, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, and across New England. Once the storm passes, additional crews from Georgia, Alabama, and the Carolinas will also be pulled in.