A significant portion of Florida's east coast will be impacted by this powerful storm, and based upon the current forecast path, intensity and FPL's historical modeling, the company now anticipates as many as 2.5 million customers will experience power outages and damage.
"Depending upon Matthew's ultimate path and intensity, damage to our electrical infrastructure will be extensive," said Silagy. "The impacts of this storm will far exceed the design standards of not just the FPL system, but much of the design standards of homes and buildings throughout the region. Some areas of our service territory may experience extended and repeated outages, while others may require a total rebuild of our energy infrastructure. The most important thing now is to ensure our customers have completed their final storm preparations and are ready to ride out this storm safely."
FPL continues to remind its customers of the need to be cautious before, during and after the storm. Stay away from flooded areas and debris, and stay alert to and away from downed power lines, which could be energized and dangerous. Importantly, treat highway intersections as four-way stops where stop lights are out of service due to a loss of power.
"We thank our customers in advance for their patience with what we know will be a challenging time," Silagy said. Please know that our crews will be out in force, working around the clock until every last customer's lights are back on."
Flooding, fallen structures, debris and other obstacles also can affect the speed of power restoration. Excess vegetation and debris are also anticipated to cause significant restoration challenges. Following severe weather, FPL crews must cut away trees and other vegetation that have fallen into power lines, or that are blocking access, to locate and fix damage safely and as quickly as possible. Workers will operate bucket trucks and restore service in between bands of severe weather, as long as winds are below 35 mph and conditions are safe.
FPL is better prepared to respond to severe weather having invested more than $2 billion since 2006 to build a stronger, smarter and more storm-resilient energy grid that will allow us to restore power much faster than ever before. That said, there will be outages as no utility is hurricane-proof, especially when facing a powerful storm such as Matthew.
As a result of lessons learned from 2012's Superstorm Sandy, FPL has installed real-time flood monitors at 223 substations that are most susceptible to storm surge, including substations in Miami-Dade, Broward, Collier and Lee counties. 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 provide FPL 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.
Please stay safe
Safety is always FPL's first priority. We urge customers to make it their top priority, too. Customers should:
- Stay far away from downed power lines, flooding and debris; lines could be energized and dangerous. Call 911 and 1-800-4OUTAGE (1-800-468-8243) if you see a downed power line.
- Use extreme caution while driving. Power interruptions may cause traffic signals to stop working without warning. If you come to an intersection with a non-working traffic signal, Florida law requires that you treat it as a four-way stop. Avoid driving on flooded roadways.
- If using a portable generator:
- Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for proper use;
- Plug appliances directly into the generator, not into the main electric panel, because the electricity may flow back into power lines and cause injuries;
- Only a licensed electrician should connect a generator to a main electric panel;
- Never operate a generator inside your home or garage; and
- Keep generators well away from open windows to prevent dangerous fumes from entering your home or a neighbor's home.
- Ensure that all electric appliances, especially ovens and stoves, are turned off to prevent fires.
- Visit FPL.com for more preparation and safety tips.
What we're doing
At FPL, we're ready to respond to Hurricane Matthew:
- We have a workforce of more than 15,000 ready to respond to the storm, which includes FPL employees and workers from other utilities and electrical contracting companies.
- Our Command Center in Riviera Beach has been open for several days, and we have been closely monitoring and preparing for this storm for more than a week.
- We've mobilized and pre-positioned our restoration workforce, so they can quickly start working as soon as it is safe to do so.
- We've prepared 17 main staging sites and 12 supporting sites to help speed restoration.
- We're asking customers to make safety their top priority, particularly since Florida hasn't experienced a major hurricane since 2005.
Immediately after the storm clears, we will send out teams to conduct firsthand damage assessments, so we can estimate when repairs will be finished and power restored in each affected area. Several hours after the storm clears a region of the state, we will communicate estimates of when power will be restored for 50 percent, 75 percent and 90 percent of customers. These estimates will be based in part on historical storm data, and they could be revised as we gather more information about the damage to our system.
How we restore power
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.
How to stay informed
FPL communicates restoration information to customers frequently through the news media and the following resources:
Florida Power & Light Company
Florida Power & Light Company is the third-largest electric utility in the United States, serving more than 4.8 million customer accounts or more than 10 million people across nearly half of the state of Florida. FPL's typical 1,000-kWh residential customer bill is approximately 30 percent lower than the latest national average and, in 2015, was the lowest in Florida among reporting utilities for the sixth 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 2016 as one of the most trusted U.S. electric utilities by Market Strategies International. A leading Florida employer with approximately 8,800 employees, FPL is a subsidiary of Juno Beach, Fla.-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 2016 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.
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SOURCE Florida Power & Light Company