Jacksonville, Fla. - As Hurricane Idalia closed in on Florida’s Big Bend region Wednesday morning, thousands of dedicated men and women were brought together by a single purpose: bringing light where the storm’s fierce wind and rain left darkness.
They’re located on the outskirts of Jacksonville, at the Northeast Florida Fairgrounds, where Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) set up a staging site filled with everything needed to restore power to the areas hardest hit by the major hurricane.
Amid a sea of high-visibility yellow jackets stand two logistic section chiefs in red. One of them, Michael Rahilly, signifies leadership and coordination for FPL. He has a radio in one hand and a red wand in the other as he directs bucket trucks at the busy staging site like a conductor of a well-orchestrated symphony.
“We’re here to make sure the site runs efficiently,” Rahilly said. “We make sure all of our linemen are fed, get to hotels and then make sure their trucks are fueled.”
Upon its landfall near Keaton Beach as a formidable Category 3 storm, Hurricane Idalia wrought havoc through its devastating winds, significant flooding and life-threatening storm surge causing thousands to lose power.
Rahilly is part of FPL’s restoration workforce more than 12,000 strong, including armies of lineworkers, tree-clearing professionals and damage assessors, focused on restoring power safely and as quickly as possible. Even from across the site, crews find him radiating smiles defying the gravity of the situation.
“Out here the days are long. The days are hot. The days are wet,” Rahilly said. “But knowing we’re out here making sure we’re restoring power to our customers... is fantastic. I just absolutely love it.”
He said he’s lost count of just how many storms he’s responded to over the last 11 hurricane seasons, but that he’ll never lose sight of why he responds.
“I’ve personally dealt with storms where I’ve lost power to my home. No one wants to have that scenario play out, but we’re turning our power back on for each and every one of our customers,” he said. “It may be raining but having the sky as our ceiling is awesome.”