It’s lights out if Irma makes a direct hit, FPL says


Florida Power & Light Co. officials said Tuesday that if Hurricane Irma makes a direct hit to Florida, the electric grid and infrastructure could be extensively damaged, and some customers could experience more than one outage.

“Right now this storm has 180-mile-per-hour winds. There could be extensive damage to our grid if it directly impacts the state,” FPL spokesman Bill Orlove said.

WHAT STORM WAS THE WORST IN FPL’S HISTORY?

Juno Beach-based FPL, the state’s largest electric utility, serves 4.9 million customer accounts representing 10 million people — half the state — in 35 Florida counties.

FPL HELD A STORM DRILL IN MAY, SAID A HIT WAS INEVITABLE

FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy said Tuesday, “Despite the fact that last year, FPL customers in Central and North Florida were significantly impacted by Hurricanes Hermine and Matthew, we estimate that approximately half of the nearly 10 million people we serve, particularly in the tri-county area, have yet to experience a hurricane, much less a major one, since 2005.”

Given the nature of the approaching storm and expected vegetation-related impacts on FPL equipment, some customers may experience more than one outage throughout the duration of the storm.

“Hurricane Irma is a very powerful, dangerous and unpredictable Category 5 storm that has the very real potential to impact Florida, and we are taking every possible action to ensure we are ready to respond. This includes preparing to move our workers and equipment to the areas most likely to be affected,” Silagy said. “With that in mind, we appreciate Gov. Rick Scott’s forward-leaning decision to declare a state of emergency, which well-positions FPL as we execute our pre-storm efforts.”

While there is much uncertainty regarding the exact path of the storm, the latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center indicates there is a significant chance that Irma could impact or make landfall in FPL’s service area.

“Every storm is different; however, the recent devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey serves as a vivid and painful reminder of Mother Nature’s fury,” Silagy said. “While we hope for the best, we owe it to our customers to prepare for the worst. We urge all of our customers to review their family and business emergency plans, heed warnings and evacuation orders by state, county and local officials, ensure they have supplies on hand and keep a close watch on the development and track of the storm.”

FPL HELD A STORM DRILL IN MAY, SAID A HIT WAS INEVITABLE

Since 2006, FPL has spent close to $3 billion hardening the electric grid to meet probable wind loads in various areas. Storm-hardened areas of the grid in Palm Beach County, for example, are designed to withstand winds of up to 140 mph.

The hardening has included strengthening 860 main powerlines, placing 450 main power lines underground and clearing vegetation from more than 150,000 miles of power lines. In addition, 1.2 million poles have been inspected and upgraded or replaced as needed.

With Irma still 96 hours away, Orlove said FPL has not yet opened its Category 5-hardened command center in West Palm Beach.

In October 2016 when Hurricane Matthew barely grazed the state, with gusts exceeding 100 mph in some areas, 1.2 million customers’ homes and businesses lost power. The company spent $318.5 million to restore power and replenish its storm fund, a tab which is being paid by customers.

After Matthew, FPL replaced 250 miles of power lines, 900 transformers and 400 utility poles. Storm-hardened feeder lines performed more than 30 percent better during Matthew than those that were not. Smart grid technology helped avoid more than 118,000 service interruptions.

On Oct. 24, 2005 Hurricane Wilma tore across the state, leaving 98 percent of FPL’s customers without power. FPL spent $721 million on restoration following Wilma.

The total cost to fix the grid damage from the 2004 and 2005 storms was $1.8 billion.

Preparation and safety tips are available at FPL.com/storm. In addition, customers can download the new FPL Mobile App for on-the-go, instant and secure access to their accounts. Customers can report or get the latest information on an outage. The app is available for download in the iOS App Store and Google Play.



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