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FT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – With hundreds of thousands of people in the state without power after Hurricane Michael ripped through Florida’s Panhandle into Georgia, Florida Power & Light is lending a hand in getting the lights back on.
Thursday, they sent eight trucks and 16 linemen from Miami-Dade and Broward left to join the 3,000 FPL workers and contractors that are already in northern Florida and the panhandle.
FPL spokesman Richard Gibbs said a job like that comes with plenty of challenges.
“In a situation like this you never know what you’re stepping into,” he explains. “There could be accessibility issues, or flooding could be an issue. Basically, it’s a ‘wait and see’ scenario.”
“We want people to get back on as quickly as possible, but we have to do it safely,” says Operations leader, Gregory Jones.
He added that this restoration effort will not be an overnight process.
“I would simply say just be patient. Help is coming,” he said.
Once they restore power to their customers in that part of the state, then they will decide where to send the additional crews.
Gibbs says these crews have all worked in the aftermath of other storms, including Hurricane Irma, and are well prepared to handle downed power lines or whatever electrical issues they may encounter.
They are keeping safety over speed in mind, though, for both their employees and their customers.
“This is their job,” he said, “This is what they do.”
Based on power outage maps from various companies in the panhandle, hundreds of thousands of people were without power as of Thursday morning. At this point, this crew doesn’t know how long they’ll be gone.
Utility crews from Gulf Power, Duke Energy Florida, and public utilities have lined up more than 19,000 workers from their own crews and through mutual-aid agreements with companies across the South and Midwest to assist in power restoration.
Hurricane Michael’s devastating winds heavily damaged or destroyed buildings in the Panhandle and snapped trees which blocked roads and brought down power lines.
City and emergency officials have asked those who left their homes for shelters to ride out the storm have asked that they not try to go back home right away until they’ve determined it is safe to do so.
FPL isn’t the only help on the way.
Search and rescue teams from a number of South Florida fire departments were staged in Ocala on Wednesday so they could assist in the Panhandle and northern part of the state as soon as Michael’s winds died down.
PJ Parker, a Miami-Dade rescue firefighter, told CBS4 she just got home from helping out with Hurricane Florence.
“It’s our passion, it’s what we do. Of course, it’s hard to be away from family but this is what we’ve trained for,” she said.
The Florida Highway Patrol is also lending a hand. They activated what they call their quick reaction force team to caravan to the Panhandle on Wednesday.
John McNamara, the Fire Chief for the City of Sunrise, said the best way to help is working by working together.
“There’s not one agency, no matter how big or small, that can handle these sorts of incidences. We all pretty much collaborated and teamed up to say ‘hey, we’re here to help each other’,” he said.
The first responders deployed on Wednesday expect to be gone for a week to 10 days.