FPL warns of ‘prolonged outages’ from Hurricane Irma

Florida Power & Light urged its customers Tuesday “to prepare for potentially prolonged power outages” as Hurricane Irma is on a path to make landfall within the utility’s giant’s 5 million-customer region — which encompasses nearly half the state.

“While there is much uncertainty regarding the exact path of the storm, the latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center indicates there is a significant chance that Irma could impact or make landfall in FPL’s service area,” said Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL in a statement.

“FPL urges its customers to take the time now to prepare for potentially prolonged power outages. Additionally, given the nature of the approaching storm and expected vegetation-related impacts on FPL equipment, some customers may experience more than one outage throughout the duration of the storm.”

Silagy said the company is moving workers and equipment to areas it expects will mostly likely be affected but it acknowledged the uncertainty surrounding the storm that forecasters say is still days away.

“Despite the fact that last year, FPL customers in Central and North Florida were significantly impacted by Hurricanes Hermine and Matthew, we estimate that approximately half of the nearly 10 million people we serve, particularly in the tri-county area, have yet to experience a hurricane, much less a major one, since 2005,” he said.

“Hurricane Irma is a very powerful, dangerous and unpredictable Category 5 storm that has the very real potential to impact Florida, and we are taking every possible action to ensure we are ready to respond.”

Since 2006, when state regulators ordered all utilities to harden the electricity grid and better coordinate their storm preparation and recovery effects, FPL has spent $3 billion to fortify its grid.

FPL reports that by the end of 2017 that effort includes burying more than 60 additional main power lines underground and “installing more than 4.9 million smart meters and 83,000 intelligent devices to help predict, reduce and prevent power outages, and restore power faster if outages occur.”

The state Public Service Commission in February allowed FPL to add $3.36 to the monthly bills of typical residential customers who use 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity a month to pay for $318.5 million needed by the company to cover the costs of restoring power after Hurricane Matthew pummeled parts of the East Coast last year. Part of the money was also used to help the company replenish its storm reserve fund, which stood at $93.1 million before Matthew.

Preparation and safety tips are available at FPL.com/storm. In addition, the company urges customers to download the FPL Mobile App for access to their accounts and get the latest information on an outage.