FLORIDA — Detailed assessments just days after Hurricane Ian made landfall confirm that the backbone of Florida’s electrical system – the transmission conduits used by Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) to carry high-voltage electricity from power plants to substations – survived Hurricane Ian without losing a single transmission structure.
As reported by The Florida Standard, FPL made significant investments for nearly two decades to build a stronger, smarter, and more storm-resilient energy grid. While no energy grid is completely hurricane-proof, these efforts enabled FPL to restore power to 1.2 million customers – nearly 60 percent of those affected by Hurricane Ian – within the first few days of restoration following the devastating impacts of the storm.
Governor DeSantis made several key appointments to state boards in the past few years. One to the Florida Commission on Hurricane Loss and Projection Methodology, and nine to the State Emergency Response Commission. Additionally, two experienced board members were reappointed to the Florida Public Service Commission, the governing body responsible for making sure that consumers receive essential services – electricity, natural gas, telephone, and water – in a safe, reliable, and affordable manner.
In 2021, Florida lawmakers passed historic legislation to invest over $640 million to support efforts in local communities to prepare for the impact of intensified storms and flooding. In the plan’s first phase, the state granted over $270 million in matching funds for 76 projects. An additional 113 projects in the second phase were granted $404 million in state-directed funding.
On Saturday afternoon, Governor DeSantis spoke about the efforts to restore power statewide. “If you you look at what’s happened with some of the power restoration, over 54% of the power that has gone out due to this storm has been restored. And this is a storm that just left the state on Thursday afternoon. So less than 48 hours after the storm left, we are seeing those numbers rapidly improve, he said.
“Some of the areas that were most affected like Sanibel and Pine Island, those are being serviced by the electrical cooperative. I’ve spoken with FPL who have a lot of infrastructure knowledge, and I’ve asked them to assist these cooperatives and they said that they will,” he added.
“We have a governor who’s really focused on delivering results. Of course, we are never going to eliminate flooding and storm surge risk, but our real focus is to enhance Floridians’ quality of life,” said Dr. Wes Brooks, Florida’s Chief Resilience Officer.
FPL’S IMMEDIATE RESPONSIVENESS
“It is truly gut-wrenching to witness the devastation being experienced by our fellow Floridians impacted by Hurricane Ian,” said Eric Silagy, Chairman and CEO of FPL, who spent Thursday and Friday surveying damage in Southwest Florida and briefing local leaders on the company’s restoration effort. “For the last two days, I’ve been humbled to put boots on the ground and to witness the influx of restoration experts from around the country who are partnering with our FPL crews to get the lights back on. We know the work is hard, but our team trains for this, and we will not stop until every customer is restored.”
Initial forensics reports have proven the benefits of undergrounding neighborhood power lines. In Southwest Florida specifically, underground neighborhood power lines performed five times better than overhead neighborhood power lines, according to FPL.
Recent storms in other states caused significantly more damage to the power grid, including transmission structures. In 2020, Hurricane Laura destroyed 1,285 transmission structures and damaged another 492 across Louisiana and Texas, according to an Entergy press release. Just last year, Hurricane Ida severely damaged or destroyed approximately 500 transmission structures in Louisiana, according to Entergy.
Ian pounded many areas of the state with damaging winds, storm surge, and torrential rains. Some areas, especially in Volusia County, remain flooded due to the excessive rainfall.
“Ian is the latest example of why statewide storm hardening is so vital, no matter the cost. It can be a matter of life and death for Floridians,” said Rep. Mike Grant, a Republican who represents Florida’s District 75.
Power crews are navigating flooding, downed trees, and downed power lines as they continue the assessment process. Some customers will face prolonged outages due to these conditions. Homes and businesses that have suffered extensive damage may be unable to safely accept power from the grid.
Teams are focusing on getting a visual assessment of the inaccessible portions of the state to determine the extent of the damage. FPL’s fixed-wing drone, FPLAir One, completed its first surveillance mission on Friday over some of the hardest hit areas of Florida. The information gathered by FPLAir One is critical to FPL’s ability to put crews in the right places to restore power as quickly as possible.
As of 6 pm on Friday, FPL had restored service to 1.2 million customers. The primary focus in the southwest Florida region is on critical infrastructure that serves communities, such as hospitals and 911 operations centers.