JUNO BEACH, Fla., Sept. 8, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) today announced that based upon the current forecast path, intensity and FPL's historical modeling, the company anticipates that approximately 4.1 million customers could experience power outages due to this deadly storm. FPL anticipates that some customers may experience more than one outage throughout the duration of the event. In addition, the company has activated more than 20 staging sites and is pre-positioning a workforce of more than 13,500 workers across the state, with a particular emphasis on South Florida, so they are ready to respond safely and as quickly as possible.
"Our hardworking men and women at FPL, along with workers from partner utilities and electrical contracting companies from nearly 30 states, including as far away as California, are ready to respond to what likely will be one of the most destructive and formidable storms our country has ever experienced," said Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL. "With a storm of this magnitude, there will be widespread destruction throughout our service territory, and most of it will be in the most densely populated areas of South Florida. This likely will be one of the most challenging restorations that our country has ever seen. However, this is what we train and plan for year-round, and we are fully committed to being there for our customers when they need us the most. For us, this is personal given we too live and work here."
Due to the anticipated strength and magnitude of Irma, customers should expect prolonged power outages. Additionally, significant damage will likely require crews to rebuild parts of our electric system.
Deliberate and gradual shut down of power plants
Both of FPL's nuclear power plants, Turkey Point and St. Lucie, have completed their site preparations and are closely monitoring the storm. The nuclear units will be shut down in a deliberate and gradual manner well in advance of the onset of hurricane force winds. In addition, the National Weather Service has issued a hurricane warning for the area that includes the Turkey Point Power Plant. After the warning was issued, FPL declared an Unusual Event as required by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and we expect NRC will issue a press release acknowledging this declaration. The Unusual Event emergency classification is required as a matter of procedure anytime a hurricane warning is issued for a nuclear plant's location; there is no impact to public safety and no public action required.
"It's important for our customers to know that our Turkey Point and St. Lucie nuclear power plants are two of the strongest structures in the world with the main portions of the plant encased in a 6-foot thick cement structure reinforced by steel. In addition, these nuclear facilities have multiple safety systems and layers of redundancy, and they are elevated well above sea level – approximately 20 feet – to protect against flooding and extreme storm surges. We continue to coordinate closely with federal regulators to ensure safety is always the top priority in everything we do," added Silagy.
In addition, we may power down some of our natural gas power plants that are in the path of the storm as part of our standard safety protocols. This mitigates damage to our plants and equipment and allows us to bring the site online faster following a storm. That said, FPL will have adequate supply of power to meet customer needs.
As a lesson learned from 2012's Superstorm Sandy, FPL has installed real-time water monitors at 223 substations that are most susceptible to storm surge throughout our service area. Substations play a critical role in providing service to customers by reducing high-voltage electricity from transmission lines to a level that can be distributed throughout FPL's service area. While the monitors clearly cannot prevent flooding, they do give us more advanced warning if a flood threat emerges and allow us to proactively shut down a substation earlier. This potentially mitigates damage to our system and allows us to bring the substation online faster following a storm.
During Hurricane Matthew, FPL proactively shut down a substation in the St. Augustine area that was forecast to have extensive flooding in order to mitigate damage to the system. This critical decision is estimated to have saved at least 24-48 hours in restoration efforts, and helped 6,500 customers get their lights back on faster.
FPL has one of the strongest electric systems in the country, but no utility is hurricane-proof, especially when facing a storm such as Irma. As long as it's safe, crews will be restoring power as the first bands of severe weather hit, and will work continuously after the storm clears until all customers have power again.
"Be assured that we are better prepared to respond to hurricanes now than at any time in our company's history; however, a Category 4 hurricane is a powerful force of nature. We expect significant, destructive impacts from Irma in our service area as 90 percent of our customers are located within 20 miles of the coastline," Silagy said. "We urge our customers to complete their final preparations, prepare for potential prolonged outages and make safety their highest priority. And we thank our customers in advance for their patience with what we know will be a challenging time ahead – whether we're restoring power, which could take days, or rebuilding our electric system, which could take weeks. Please know that we'll be out in force as soon as it's safe to work."
Depending on Irma's ultimate path and intensity, high winds, storm surge and possible tornados, damage to the electrical infrastructure could be extensive. This damage could require extended repair work, and is likely to require us to rebuild some parts of our system. Flooding, fallen structures, debris and other obstacles also can affect the scope and speed of power restoration. Excess vegetation and debris are anticipated to cause substantial restoration challenges, especially given that South Florida has yet to experience Mother Nature's wholesale clearing effort by way of such a powerful storm in more than a decade. Following severe weather, our crews must cut away trees and other vegetation that have fallen into power lines, or that are in the way, to find and fix damage safely and as quickly as possible.
What we're doing
At FPL, we're finalizing preparations for the impact of Hurricane Irma:
- We're mobilizing and pre-positioning our restoration workforce so they can quickly start working as soon as it is safe to do so. More than 13,500 workers are already dedicated to the effort, and we are working to secure thousands more;
- We have activated more than 20 staging sites to help speed restoration;
- Earlier this week, we issued automatic phone calls and text messages to our nearly 5 million customers to urge preparedness; and
- We're focused on doing our jobs and are asking customers to make safety their top priority.
How we restore power
As Irma's outer bands begin to impact our service territory, we will restore power to customers as long as it's safe to do so. Immediately following the hurricane, we will send out teams to conduct first-hand damage assessments, so we can estimate what rebuilding may be necessary and when repairs will be finished and power restored in each affected area.
We don't restore power based on when customers report an outage, where customers live or the status of accounts. Rather, we begin in multiple locations and follow an overall plan that calls for restoring power to the largest number of customers safely and as quickly as possible:
- We start by repairing any damage to our power plants and the power lines that carry electricity from our plants to the local substations.
- We prioritize restoring power to critical facilities, such as hospitals, police and fire stations, communication facilities, water treatment plants and transportation providers.
- At the same time, we work to return service to the largest number of customers in the shortest amount of time − including service to major thoroughfares that host supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations and other needed community services.
- From here, we repair the infrastructure serving smaller groups and neighborhoods, converging on the hardest-hit areas until every customer's power is restored.
What you can do
Safety is always our first priority. We urge customers to make it their top priority, too:
- Plug appliances directly into the generator, not into the main electric panel, because the electricity may flow back into power lines and cause injuries.
- Prepare to be without power for an extended period and keep a battery-operated radio on hand with a two-week supply of fresh batteries.
- Record your FPL account number in a location that will be readily available. By knowing your account number, you will be able to quickly access your account online at FPL.com. Also, have our phone number (1-800-4OUTAGE or 1-800-468-8243) handy in the event you need to call to obtain information through our automated system.
- If someone in your home is dependent on electric-powered, life-sustaining medical equipment, review your family emergency plan for back-up power or make arrangements to relocate now.
- If you plan to use a ladder while preparing your home for the storm, note the location of power lines before you begin. Be sure that ladders or scaffolds are far enough away so that you – and the ends of the tools you're using – stay at least 10 feet away from power lines. Before lowering a TV antenna or satellite dish, make sure to turn off and unplug the TV.
- Most counties suspend trash and debris pickup before a storm. Please do not trim trees now, as high winds can turn cut branches into dangerous, flying debris. However, if you already have trimmed trees, please help to prevent outages by tying down or securing loose branches or other debris.
- Adjust refrigerators and freezers to their coldest settings ahead of time to keep food fresher longer in the event of a power outage.
- Don't venture out in the dark, because you might not see a downed power line that could be energized and dangerous; avoid standing water and debris.
- If you see a downed power line, call 911 or FPL 1-800-4OUTAGE (1-800-468-8243). Stay away from all power lines.
- Heed the warnings and evacuation orders by local, state and federal officials.
Additional preparation and safety tips are available at FPL.com/storm. In addition, customers can download the new FPL Mobile App for on-the-go, instant and secure access to their accounts. Customers can report or get the latest information on an outage. The app is available for download in the iOS App Store and Google Play. Since the app launched at the beginning of storm season, there has been more than a quarter of a million downloads.
How to stay informed
FPL communicates restoration information to customers frequently through the news media and the following resources:
Customers also can sign up for pre- and post-storm email updates at FPL.com/storm.
Florida Power & Light Company
Florida Power & Light Company is the third-largest electric utility in the United States, serving nearly 5 million customer accounts or an estimated 10 million people across nearly half of the state of Florida. FPL's typical 1,000-kWh residential customer bill is approximately 25 percent lower than the latest national average and, in 2016, was the lowest in Florida among reporting utilities for the seventh year in a row. FPL's service reliability is better than 99.98 percent, and its highly fuel-efficient power plant fleet is one of the cleanest among all utilities nationwide. The company received the top ranking in the southern U.S. among large electric providers, according to the J.D. Power 2016 Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction StudySM, and was recognized in 2017 as one of the most trusted U.S. electric utilities by Market Strategies International. A leading Florida employer with approximately 8,900 employees, FPL is a subsidiary of Juno Beach, Florida-based NextEra Energy, Inc. (NYSE: NEE), a clean energy company widely recognized for its efforts in sustainability, ethics and diversity, and has been ranked No. 1 in the electric and gas utilities industry in Fortune's 2017 list of "World's Most Admired Companies." NextEra Energy is also the parent company of NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, which, together with its affiliated entities, is the world's largest generator of renewable energy from the wind and sun. For more information about NextEra Energy companies, visit these websites: www.NextEraEnergy.com, www.FPL.com, www.NextEraEnergyResources.com.
SOURCE Florida Power & Light Company
For further information: Florida Power & Light Company, Media Line: 561-694-4442, @FPL_Newsroom