Hurricane Idalia made landfall in Florida on Wednesday morning as a category 3 hurricane. Prior to its arrival, public power utilities were pre-staged to prepare for power restoration efforts in the wake of Idalia’s arrival.
“The impacts of Hurricane Idalia, an unprecedented storm for Florida’s Big Bend Region, have currently left more than 251,300 homes and businesses in Florida without power. More than a third of Florida’s 33 public power utilities were impacted with outages reaching approximately 42,000 public power customers as of noon today,” said Amy Zubaly, Executive Director, Florida Municipal Electric Association, on Aug. 30.
“Prior to Hurricane Idalia’s landfall, the Florida Municipal Electric Association had assembled more than 350 mutual aid resources from nearly 50 public power utilities across 13 states from as far away as Nebraska and Oklahoma to as near as Alabama and Georgia and from within Florida, along with hundreds of contractors and tree crews,” she noted.
As of 11 a.m. Aug. 30, Florida’s public power utilities had restored power to approximately 52,000 customers.
“Florida’s public power utilities are committed to fully restoring power to their customers as quickly and safely as possible and will continue to work around the clock until every customer has electric service,” Zubaly said. “We greatly appreciate our network of mutual aid support that will help make this possible and the partnership of the Governor’s Office, Florida Division of Emergency Management, and local emergency operations centers as we work toward recovery.”
Florida public power utility KEYS Energy Services has mobilized nine employees to assist with post-Hurricane Idalia power restoration efforts.
KEYS’ crew will assist personnel from other regional utilities and contractors with regional power restoration in the aftermath of the storm.
KEYS’ Hurricane Idalia crew will include: Marlon Briones, Joe Francis, Daniel Garcia, Miguel Gonzalez, Jimmy Greene, Hernan Hernandez, Juan Llera, Darren Raley, and Paul Sanchez.
KEYS’ lineworkers, tree trimmers and safety officer, along with three bucket trucks, one digger truck, one tree truck, and one utility pole trailer, departed Aug. 30, and will assist with power restoration in the path of Hurricane Idalia.
“Our crew looks forward to lending their unique hurricane restoration experience to fellow public power utilities in the path of Idalia,” said Lynne Tejeda, KEYS’ General Manager & CEO.
Nebraska Public Power Utilities Send Personnel to Florida
The City of Tallahassee, Fla., requested assistance from Nebraska public power utility Omaha Public Power District prior to Idalia’s arrival.
OPPD sent four three-person crews, two mechanics, one field supervisor and one safety specialist (16 total employees), said Jodi Baker, Media Specialist for OPPD.
They departed the morning of August 29 from Nebraska City, “with two full days of travel ahead, en route to Paducha, Kentucky,” Baker noted.
“Our crews will pre-stage and remain out of the path of the storm until it has passed, and we will help utilities as needed,” she said.
The crews stayed in Paducha, Kentucky on Aug. 29 and departed from Paducah the morning of Aug. 30 and were making their way to Troy, Alabama, where they will stay the night of Aug. 30.
“They will head to Tallahassee early tomorrow morning, ready to assist our fellow public power utilities as needed (just as they would assist us in our time of need),” said Baker.
Another Nebraska public power utility, Lincoln Electric System, on Aug. 29 said that it was deploying staff and vehicles to help utilities in Florida with anticipated power restoration efforts due to Hurricane Idalia. Two crews comprised of 10 LES employees headed to Tallahassee, Florida.
"Storms like Hurricane Idalia can cause damage to a variety of infrastructure," said Paul Crist, LES vice president of Energy Delivery. "Our crews are cross-trained to safely restore power wherever they are needed, from large transmission lines to overhead and underground neighborhood lines."
LES said its crews were expected to arrive in Florida Sept. 1. A crew from Grand Island, Neb., will travel with LES to assist in restoration efforts.
The American Public Power Association is helping to coordinate assistance efforts in the region. As a member of the APPA's mutual aid network, LES is reimbursed for all costs of deploying resources to assist other utilities.
LES most recently offered a hand restoring power in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, in the wake of Hurricane Ian in 2022.
"Whether assisting communities in need of mutual aid or serving our families, neighbors and friends in the Lincoln area, safety remains our top priority," Crist said.
Edmond, Okla., Also Sent Linemen to Florida
In addition, a team of linemen from the public power community of Edmond, Okla., on Aug. 29 departed for Florida to assist with power restoration efforts.
Once the storm passes, the crew will travel to Tallahassee, Florida, to replace poles, cut down trees, and help with other power restoration efforts.
Crews Also Depart from Louisiana and Ohio
Crews from Ohio’s Westerville Electric and Louisiana’s Lafayette Utilities System also deployed to Florida prior to the arrival of Idalia.
Crews from Missouri, Arkansas Head to Florida
Public power electric line crews from Missouri and Arkansas also traveled to Florida prior to the hurricane’s arrival, ready to perform recovery work in the wake of Idalia.
Organized by the Missouri Public Utility Alliance, lineworker crews from 15 utilities traveled to Jacksonville, preparing to respond to power outages at Florida municipal utilities after the storm passes.
The combined response involves 68 lineworkers and other utility personnel from the 13 Missouri cities of Carthage, Chillicothe, Columbia, Hannibal, Higginsville, Independence, Kennett, Macon, Nixa, Odessa, Palmyra, Poplar Bluff, and Springfield. They were also joined by a crew from Conway, Arkansas, and a crew from the MPUA Resource Services Corporation in Columbia.
The workers will stage in Jacksonville, equipped with more than 40 utility work vehicles, including bucket trucks, digger/derrick trucks, and other linework vehicles and equipment. The Missouri lineworkers’ Florida arrival was timed to be ahead of anticipated hurricane impacts on the Florida Gulf Coast.
Electric Cities of Georgia
Electric Cities of Georgia on Aug. 28 reported that it was sending crews to the City of Thomasville and the City of Cairo to stage in preparation for Idalia. Crews were also requested by Florida Municipal Power Authority, ECG said.
South Carolina’s Santee Cooper on Aug. 30 said its team members were prepared for the anticipated effects that Hurricane Idalia may have on Santee Cooper’s service territory.
As of 8 a.m. on Aug. 30, Santee Cooper went to Operating Condition 2 alert status. This means a threat to Santee Cooper’s electric system is imminent or has occurred, but effects are limited or still uncertain.
“Santee Cooper will make every effort to keep electricity flowing to our 209,000 customers in Berkeley, Georgetown and Horry counties and our wholesale and industrial customers across the state,” said Jimmy Staton, Santee Cooper and CEO. “Our equipment is lined up, our vehicles are ready, and we are finalizing details to be sure we can respond to outages as soon as we safely can.”