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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Much of South Florida remains without power. It’s hot, sticky and uncomfortable, but Florida Power and Light said Tuesday South Florida could have all of its power restored by the end of the weekend except for those areas where there is severe flooding, damage, or where tornadoes touched down. The statement did not clarify the meaning of “severe damage.”
“We know how difficult it is to be without power,” said FPL Chief Communications Officer Rob Gould. “Please be patient. We are fully committed to restoring power safely & quickly.”
On the west coast of Florida, power should be restored by September 22nd, with the same possible delays due to flooding, severe damage or where tornadoes touched down.
Gould said they have an “army of restoration workers that stands at 20,000 people hard at work.” He said they are restoring power and assessing damage to the grid.
He said the system is performing well but they still have a lot of work to do.
“This is the first time our entire territory, 35 counties, have been impacted by any storm. This has been a monumental effort that has begun and will continue.” In comparison, Hurricane Wilma impacted 21 counties.
FPL recently boasted of having spent $3 billion to replace wooden poles with concrete poles and harden its systems. Gould says the “hardened feeders appear to be performing 30-percent better than our non-hardened feeders. In the case of Irma, we’ve been able to restore roughly 2.3 million outages. We’ve also restored 40% of customers impacted by Irma in one day. In comparison, during Wilma, we were at 4% so the system is performing well. We know that doesn’t give solace to those without power but we are seeing the benefits of our investments. The length of restoration would be less had we not invested in the system.”
Still, at 3:45 p.m. Tuesday, 641,460 customers were still without power in Miami-Dade and 455,800 were in the dark in Broward.
In Davie, Ramon Hudek pointed to the thermostat in his powerless house Tuesday morning.
“It’s 84 degrees now. It was 86 last night,” Hudek said. Hudek wondered where FPL had spent the billions on improving its system, saying he had seen no changes in his neighborhood since Wilma.
Gould said the company “understands what it’s like to be in the dark, hot and without air conditioning. We are restoring power day and night.”
If FPL understands what it’s like to be hot, without air conditioning, many customers were not so understanding of the company.
On WLRN radio, caller after caller ranted over the massive outages caused by Irma, which WFOR Chief Meteorologist Craig Setzer said was a tropical storm event, with only category 1 hurricane gusts. Irma was a much less powerful storm than Wilma, a category 2 hurricane.
“I think you ought to take the CEO of FP&L, put him in a house without electricity, and let him experience what the rest of us are doing,” said one caller to WLRN. “He’s sitting in an air conditioned office.”
Many outages, Gould said, were caused by debris, vegetation and falling trees and not necessarily the wind. “The number of poles down appears to be significantly less than what we expected to see,” said Gould. “They are down due to trees pulling them down, not the wind.”
FPL is restoring power according to its detailed plan, which includes generation facilities going back on line first which restores power to critical infrastructure such as hospitals, police stations and 911 services, then they restore feeders which feeds the largest amount of customers along those lines and then come the smaller lines into individual neighborhoods.
Gould said the bottom line is FPL wants everyone “to be safe and patient. Safety is key here. Please know we are fully committed to restoring your power. We will get the lights back on.”
Those trying to check on the status of their power restoration have had little success at FPL’s Power Tracker website. The site apparently has insufficient capacity to handle the number of people trying to view it. Clicking on the site, www.fplmaps.com, produced a spinning wheel throughout most of Monday.
In Davie, FPL spokesman Richard Gibbs was unable to access the company’s website at midday when reporters inquired about the most recent outage figures. “It’s a little slow,” Gibbs said.
As for Irma’s powerful punch to the power grid?
“We’ve had a lot of vegetation making impacts with lines. That will result in outages,” Gibbs said.
Some customers told CBS4 News they feel FPL has done an inadequate job of cutting back trees and limbs along neighborhood power easements, which exacerbated Irma’s impact.