It may not seem like it if you sweated through the night and are worried about food supplies, but power is coming back in South Florida as the region begins its recovery after Hurricane Irma.
The lights could be back on by the end of the weekend.
That’s the time estimate given by FPL on Tuesday. Power to Florida’s east coast, including Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, should be restored by the end of day Sunday, with the possible exception of areas hit by tornadoes, flooding and severe damage, FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy said at Florida Power & Light Company’s restoration site in southwest Miami-Dade.
“I’m asking for folks to be patient. We have had 4.4 million customers impacted, we have already restored 1.3 million. It has been 18 hours since Irma left our system … 18 hours since the biggest hurricane to hit Florida has left. I know it's hard for people not to have power. But we’re on this 24-7,” said Silagy, who visited the site at 12115 SW 80th St. in Miami, where workers were repairing a main line pole that snapped, on Tuesday afternoon.
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In the past 24 hours, 450,000 more homes and businesses in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties got their power restored, according to FPL data.
As of 7 p.m. Tuesday in Miami-Dade, 584,600 customers had outages out of 1.1 million customers in total. In Broward, 424,420 had no power out of 933,300, and in Palm Beach 352,410 of 739,000 were out. That’s about 1.35 million homes and businesses without power, about half of FPL’s customers in the tri-county area.
FPL has only been providing outage information at the county level and an FPL executive said it is not able to give outages by areas or neighborhoods at this time. “We would like to give better visibility into the areas. We are working on that,” said Rob Gould, FPL’s chief of communications from FPL’s command headquarters.
FPL is restoring power according to its detailed plan, restoring it first to its infrastructure and to critical services, such as hospitals, police and emergency operations, and next to large commercial areas. Then come the smaller pockets of customers in the neighborhoods.
It can’t come soon enough for West Kendall resident Sandra Padron, who said her house and neighborhood lost power at 11:30 a.m. Sunday.
“We have no idea of when we will be able to get gas. We have not seen any FPL crews. We have no updates on our outage. We are running out of food and generator gas is gone. FPL has no updates or estimates. Traffic lights are out, trees and fences down, no gas for miles and no electricity,” she emailed to the Miami Herald. “We are literally living in the dark ages.”
On Tuesday, FPL was estimating that most or all of its hardest-hit west coast customers would have power restored by Sept. 22, because damage was more extensive than on the east coast.
Still, Gould said FPL had completed its initial assessment and saw less pole damage than it was expecting. Also, its transmission network, the backbone of the system, is holding up well, even in the hardest hit areas. “We are encouraged by what we are seeing thus far.”
Trucks were seen rolling in South Florida on Monday and Tuesday. FPL employees will always carry an FPL photo ID badge and will never need to enter your home, FPL said. FPL also warned residents to stay away from downed power lines. If you see a downed power line, call 911 or 800-4OUTAGE.
About 19,500 workers, including crews from other utilities outside the state, are working for FPL to get power back to its customers in 35 counties. FPL has activated 30 staging sites. As previously reported, one of Turkey Point’s two reactors was taken down before the storm. “We will be bringing it back up,” Gould said. “We do not publicize when that will be but we will announce it afterward.”
In his remarks in Miami, Silagy said he was satisfied with the restoration effort so far.
“You start with the power plants because if you can’t generate the electricity, it does no good to fix the lines. All the power plants are up and operational. Turkey Point, no issues at all. There never were. We’re ready to generate power.”
This report will be updated frequently. Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.