How to stay safe when a hurricane causes power outages

By Scott Di Savino and Timothy Gardner

By Scott Di Savino and Timothy Gardner

In some coastal counties the outage rates are as high as 97 percent.

More than 3.5 million FPL customers statewide have no power, but the company says it has restored service to more than 1 million since the storm began.

Beyersdorf and Jensen left northern Wisconsin on Friday morning and raced to southern Florida to be in place ahead of Irma's impact. Eastern time, according to the Los Angeles Times, there were 38,990 outages in the Miami-Dade County area, 6,696 in Broward and 2,373 in Palm Beach County. Some homes and businesses could be without power for weeks, especially in the hardest-hit areas like southwest Florida, the NextEra Energy Inc unit said.

The good news in South Florida is that recovery from power outages caused by Hurricane Irma is now expected to be a fix job, FPL spokesman Rob Gould said Saturday at a mid-day news conference. A skeleton crew of workers will ride out the storm at each plant, he said. On the coasts, storm surges and flooding remain a threat - much of Jacksonville, Fla. was underwater on Monday in the midst of record-high flooding.

First, they start by repairing any damage to power plants and the power lines that carry electricity from plants to the local substations. On Friday, the utility had estimated that 4.1 million accounts or 9 million people would lose power in the storm. The most extensive damage was likely in the Naples area, but a full assessment was ongoing. Duke Energy is also bringing 1,500 additional workers from locations in the Midwest to support restoration efforts. If the hurricane continues on its present track and strength, Florida's west coast could be more of a "rebuild" to restore power, he said. Some of these concrete poles can withstand winds up to 145 miles per hour (233 km/h), he said.

"We have arguably one of the strongest grids in America, but no grid is created to be able to withstand a Category 5 storm that has wind approaching 185 miles per hour [300 km/h]", Gould said.

"We will safely shut down these nuclear plants well in advance of hurricane-force winds, and we've finalized plans for that shutdown", FPL spokesman Rob Gould told a news conference. Then they will work to ensure critical facilities are restored like hospitals, fire and shelters. The process will require several weeks of unsafe restorations of power plants, substations, and transmission lines. He would not comment on exactly when the plants would be taken down or how long they could be shut. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) required plants to install portable pumps and generators to keep water moving over fuel rods and the spent fuel pool even if offsite power supply was lost.

Georgia Power reported no problems with its power plants, including its Vogtle and Hatch nuclear power plants, which it noted "are created to withstand significant hazard events, including hurricane force winds and flooding".

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