For the people of Florida, the end of November is a time to celebrate. It’s when we say goodbye to the Atlantic hurricane season.
After 11 years without a direct hit, the past two hurricane seasons have brought us Hermine, Matthew and Irma. This season’s Hurricane Irma was a powerful and massive Category 4 hurricane when it made landfall in the Keys. The second strongest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded, Irma was wider than the Florida peninsula leaving few parts of the Sunshine State spared. As Hurricane Irma made a beeline up the state, she brought destruction, flooding and widespread power outages.
During the week leading up to Irma’s arrival, Florida’s public power communities prepared for the worst. This was an unprecedented storm that led to the largest pre-planned power restoration effort in U.S. history. We quickly activated our mutual aid agreements across the country, lining up more than 2,000 additional public power line workers to support the 1,000 public power line workers in our communities.
Crews and equipment from 200 municipal electric utilities in 26 states and Canada were stationed inside and outside the state so they were ready to move into affected areas as soon as conditions were safe. Tens of thousands of line workers from investor-owned utilities and electric cooperatives came to assist with power restoration, too.
Nearly seven million customers in Florida lost power during Hurricane Irma, including more than 827,000 public power customers. Line workers and power crews worked together day and night to get the power up and running. With the help of all these wonderful electric utility personnel who travelled to Florida, public power utilities were able to restore power to more than half of our customers within 24 hours and 80 percent of all our customers within 48 hours.
More than 98 percent of our customers were up within a week. Given the size and strength of Hurricane Irma, and the sheer number of communities impacted, this was a monumental achievement.
We are so grateful to all those who helped us get the power back on so quickly. While Hurricane Irma was unlike any other storm, she did bring the best out in people. She showed us how selfless people can be when they leave their homes and families to rush to our aid. She showed us what it means to be deeply appreciative of those selfless acts. She showed us neighbors still help neighbors. And, she showed us true leadership.
Gov. Rick Scott did an incredible job helping us all prepare for this national event, organizing aid and encouraging collaboration by bringing people together.
Being locally owned and operated, restoring power after an outage means a lot to us. We’re not just responding to a service area. We are taking care of our family, friends and neighbors. Our sincere thanks to Gov. Scott and all our mutual aid partners who enabled us to take care of our communities and the people who mean so much to us following Hurricane Irma.
Amy Zubaly is the executive director of the Florida Municipal Electric Association and Jacob Williams is general manager and chief executive officer of the Florida Municipal Power Agency. Locally, the City of Green Cove Springs is a member of FMPA.