One week after one of the most destructive storms in U.S. history made landfall on the southeastern coast, utilities are still busy restoring power to customers.
According to Reuters, the category 4 hurricane knocked out power to more than 5 million customers in three states. With over 4.1 million customers affected, Florida got the worst of it. About 1 million customers in North and South Carolina also lost power.
Florida Power and Light (FPL) describes itself as the largest electric utility in the country, with service to more than 12 million customers. Not surprisingly, considering its large profile and the impact of the storm on its service area, the utility took a major hit. According to its own statement, 1.7 million customers were without power on Sept. 29, in the hours after the storm hit.
The utility immediately began the effort to restore power. FPL had begun preparations before Ian arrived. It began prepositioning its workforce and mobilizing an emergency response plan in the days leading up to the storm's landfall.
After landfall, the restoration effort immediately began in earnest, once the most dangerous conditions of the storm had subsided. At its peak, the effort included the deployment of FPL's entire workforce of 21,000, plus additional assistance from 30 states. To support their efforts, 37 staging, parking and processing sites were deployed strategically throughout the state.
In some areas where conditions made it unsafe for crews to deploy, the effort relied on remote, smart grid technology and drones to assess damage. The destruction was so severe in some areas, FPL explained, that restoration of service was not enough. Some infrastructure will actually have to be rebuilt.
Work continued throughout the week, and by Thursday Oct. 6, FPL announced power had been restored to about 2 million customers out of a total of 2.1 million that had lost power.
The utility expects to restore power to about 95% of those customers who were affected by Oct. 7. About 97,000 customers still do not have power. Of those, FPL notes that thousands have been "so badly damaged that they may not be able to safely receive electrical service." The company is continuing to focus on those hardest hit areas.