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FPL warns customers of likelihood of outages if Hurricane Irma hits

Posted at 4:06 PM, Sep 07, 2017

People could be without power for days, or even weeks, if Hurricane Irma rips through the area.

“Should the storm stay on its current path, many of our customers will experience power outages,” said Robert Gould, chief communications officer for Florida Power and Light.

In a press conference Thursday, Gould said he thinks FPL is more prepared for Hurricane Irma than it has ever been for a storm before, however, outages are still expected.

“There’s just simply no way to hurricane-proof an electric system,” Gould said. “It’s just virtually impossible.”

FPL will have an 11,000-person restoration crew for the storm, which includes crews from across the country who are coming here to help out.

“We have a significant influx, virtually a small army, coming in of lineman and tree and vegetation crews that are coming to support us,” Gould said.

The company plans to position crews ahead of time in 22 sites around the area that are expected to be hit the hardest to speed up the restoration process.

Workers will not necessarily have to wait until after the storm to go out to restore power.

“If the wind is exceeding 35 miles per hour, they can’t fly,” Gould said. “They can’t do their job safely. We will be responding. We will not just be sitting back.”

However, Gould wants people to understand while repairs could cause power to be out for hours or days, rebuilding of the system takes much longer.

“You could very easily be talking about weeks, if not longer, to rebuild the entire electric system if that’s what we see happen and Irma’s worst fears are realized,” he said.

FPL has three million gallons of extra fuel, 13,000 transformers, 25,000 poles and 15,000 miles of wire on hand to fix outages.

FPL has also made electric system and infrastructure improvements since 2005 that will help the company maintain and restore power. Those include strengthening main power lines, placing lines underground, working year-round to clear vegetation, replacing wooden power poles with concrete poles and shortening the space between poles to make the wires less likely to drop down.

The company has also invested in flood-monitoring equipment, including smart meters and devices across the grid. Crews will be able to see on iPads in their trucks if houses in a certain neighborhood are still without power.