Hurricane Irma has left millions of people without power in Florida, a critical situation that could take a painfully long period of time to sort out.
Estimates vary, but some 9 million people lost power during Hurricane Irma, according to the CEO of Florida Power & Light, the state’s largest utility. As of Monday, an additional 1 million people lost power in Georgia and South Carolina as the remains of Irma moved north. Florida Power & Light has already begun restoring power, but as of Monday, there were more than 3.6 million customers still offline.
Utilities in other parts of the country are sending legions of workers to Florida in an aggressive effort to rebuild and restore service. The CEO of Southern Company, another crucial utility in the U.S. Southeast, said that the mess will likely require 50,000 to 60,000 additional utility workers from out of state to help in the recovery.
It could have been a lot worse, as the track of the hurricane ended up moving west of Miami but east of Tampa Bay, avoiding a direct hit on any major city. Plus, Florida’s electricity grid has been improved in recent years, which could help get things back to normal more quickly. Florida Power & Light, for example, has spent $3 billion since the nasty storms of 2004 and 2005 to fortify its system and minimize damage from storms.
“The effort is to see how fast we can get back online. That is the definition in the industry now of ‘resilience’. It is to figure how to get things back together as soon as possible,” Christine Tezak, managing director at ClearView Energy Partners, told CNBC. She also argued that Florida’s multi-billion-dollar investments to harden the electricity grid over the past decade—investments made in light of a previous round of destructive hurricanes in the mid-2000s—have paid off.
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