As Florida began feeling the effects of Hurricane Matthew on Friday morning, thousands of people have already been left without electricity. Over 200, 000 people have been affected by power outages. This is according to the Florida Power and Light Company. Even though more people lost power in the course of Thursday and Friday, power was restored in some parts. This brings the number of people who have been affected by power outages at some point to 301, 230.
The Florida Power and Light (FPL) Company estimates that up to 1.2 million people could be affected by the time the storm passes over. Even though the company has deployed over 12, 000 response workers, they have warned residents to expect multiple outages as the storm lasts.
As the storm continues, utility companies are expecting more outages, as a result of the strong winds of the storm that could result in power poles being uprooted and electric wires being cut.
Hurricane Matthew is a big test to utility companies, disaster repair firms and public service workers that have been preparing for years for such kind of a disaster. The FPL has spent over $ 2 billion since 2006 to fortify its system in readiness for such disasters. This means that its systems can withstand storms and it will take it a much shorter time to restore back power in case of outages. Part of FPL’s preparation included improving its coordination among staff and members of the public.
Even though their systems were tested during hurricane Hermine, Hurricane Matthew presents a much stronger challenge since the company hasn’t faced such a storm since they upgraded their systems.
Power plants and their substations in Florida have fortified their infrastructure, which means that their power generation and transmission will not face such a serious threat. It is highly unlikely for the power plant to be affected, such that it fails to function. What poses the main challenge is the distribution of electricity from the power plant to its grid.
While some power lines have been placed underground in Florida, most power lines remain above ground, so as to protect them from storm urge and incursion of sea water. This makes them susceptible to the wind gusts, which blow debris and tree branches on power lines, resulting in power outages.
During the last major hurricane to hit the area, Hurricane Wilma in 2005, 2.5 million people experienced power outages and the FPL was able to restore power to homes and businesses within 18 days. But in some cases, it took up to 3 weeks for power to be restored. With the devastation that hurricane Matthew may cause, power infrastructure could be extensively damaged, which could lead to it taking several weeks before power can be restored in some areas.
The company said that it may have to take some customers offline if flooding begins. Residents were warned not to walk in flooded waters after the storm in case live electric wires may have fallen in the waters.