Nine Million People Facing Risk of Blackout in Florida

Nine Million People Facing Risk of Blackout in FloridaNine Million People Facing Risk of Blackout in Florida

Hurricane Irma threatens to knock out power to more than 4.1 million homes and businesses served by Florida Power & Light, affecting around nine million people based on the current storm track, the utility’s chief executive said on Friday.

“Everyone in Florida will be impacted in some way by this storm,” Eric Silagy said at a news conference, urging FPL customers to be prepared for a multi-week restoration process, Reuters reported.

FPL is the biggest power company in Florida serving almost half of the state’s 20.6 million residents.

Outages across the state will likely top 4.1 million customers since other utilities, including units of Duke Energy Corp, Southern Co and Emera Inc, will also suffer outages but have not yet estimated how many.

Irma poses a significantly bigger menace to power supplies in Florida than Hurricane Harvey did in Texas because Irma is packing 240 km/h winds that could down electric lines and close nuclear and other power plants.

“This storm is unprecedented as far as strength and size. We are preparing for the worst and will likely have to rebuild parts of our service territory,” Silagy said, noting the kinds of winds expected could snap concrete poles.

Irma’s winds have rivaled the strongest for any hurricane in history in the Atlantic, whereas Harvey’s damage came from record rainfall. Even as Houston flooded, the power stayed on for most, allowing citizens to use TV and radio to stay apprised of danger, or social media to call for help.

 “When Harvey made landfall in Texas, it made it fully inland and weakened pretty quickly. Irma, however, could retain much of its strength,” said Jason Setree, a meteorologist at Commodity Weather Group. Irma has killed several people and devastated islands in the Caribbean. Current forecasts put almost the entirety of the Florida peninsula in the path of the storm, which made landfall in the Caribbean with wind speeds of 185 mph.

The threat of the Category 4 storm, the second highest rung on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, is grave enough that FPL plans to shut its two nuclear power plants in the state, and officials warned that it may have to rebuild parts of its power system, which could take weeks.

Most Florida residents have not experienced a major storm since 2005, when total outages peaked around 3.6 million during Hurricane Wilma that year. Some of those outages lasted for weeks.


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