Over 1.4M in Florida lose power from Irma, utility says

Scott DiSavino, Reuters

Posted at Sep 11 2017 01:00 AM

Water rises up to a sidewalk by the Miami river as Hurricane Irma arrives at south Florida. Carlos Barria, Reuters

More than 1.4 million homes and businesses in south Florida were without power from Hurricane Irma on Sunday, the state's largest utility said, and repairs to its system will take weeks, threatening to leave millions in the dark.

Much of the state has not yet felt the full brunt of the storm as Irma barreled across the Florida Keys on Sunday morning and headed for the state's southwest coast with maximum sustained winds of 215 kilometers per hour, making it a Category 4 storm, the second worst on the Saffir-Simpson scale.

In all about 2 million people and businesses had lost power. At 11:45 a.m. EDT, about 1.4 million were without power while about 300,000 had power restored, FPL said. Large utilities that serve other parts of the state saw only seeing scattered outages.

"We will have to rebuild part of our system, particularly in the western part of the state. That restoration process will be measured in weeks, not days," said FPL spokesman Rob Gould at a news conference.

On Friday, the utility warned Irma could impact around 4.1 million customers, but that was before the storm track shifted away from the eastern side of the state where FPL's customers are concentrated in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Last October, Hurricane Matthew knocked out 1.2 million FPL customers as it skirted Florida's east coast without making landfall. Matthew did not come on shore and damage infrastructure, and it took the utility about two days to restore power.

FPL has warned customers to prepare for outages that could last weeks if Irma requires the utility to rebuild parts of its service territory.

FPL decided to shut only one of the two reactors at its Turkey Point nuclear plant on Saturday because the storm track shifted, and plans to leave both reactors at the St. Lucie plant in service because hurricane force winds are no longer expected to hit the sites. On Sunday, Gould said its nuclear plants were safe.

FPL had said on Friday it planned to shut both units at Turkey Point sometime on Saturday about 24 hours before hurricane force winds reached the plant.

St. Lucie is located on a barrier island on the state's east coast, about 120 miles (193 km) north of Miami, while Turkey Point is about 30 miles south of Miami.

FPL is a unit of Florida energy company NextEra Energy Inc.